Frequently asked questions

If I tell a teacher, will my family find out?

Your teacher should know not to tell your family, but make sure you explain to them that you might be in danger if they do. If you feel they do not understand your problem, refer them to this document: Working Together to Safeguard Children: A guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

I’ve been told that if I don’t get married I am going against my religion. Is this true?

No. All mainstream religions believe that a person has the right to choose who they want to marry. Your family or community may use a religion to try and force you into agreeing to a marriage, but no religion will turn you away for refusing a marriage. For information on Forced Marriages and Islam, click here.

I come from a culture which accepts arranged marriages and my parents want me to have one. I’m too young and I don’t feel ready, but if arranged marriages are allowed, can I refuse?

There is often a misconception that arranged and forced marriages are the same thing but there is actually a big difference between them. An arranged marriage is where families are closely involved in choosing suitable partners, but you have the ultimate say and can choose to accept or reject potential matches. However, a forced marriage is any arrangement that does not have your consent, even if your family calls it an ‘arranged marriage’. If you feel that you said "yes" to a marriage due to family/community pressure or emotional blackmail (i.e. your family said you were ‘shaming’ them, sinning against your religion or making a loved one ill with stress), it is STILL A FORCED MARRIAGE. If you feel that you are too young to get married right now, don’t feel like this is something you have to deal with on your own. You can call the JAN Trust helpline on 0800 141 2994, talk to a teacher or call the Forced Marriage Unit. All of these will keep whatever you say confidential and will only act if you want them to.

My family is taking me for a holiday, but I’m scared they’re going to force me to get married. What do I do?

There have been cases where families take their child away under the guise of a family holiday but instead they confiscate their passports on arrival and force them into a marriage:

  • Before you go contact the Forced Marriage Unit at 020 7008 0151 or call our helpline on 0800 141 2994.
  • Make sure you tell someone you trust about the concerns you have and inform them that you are being taken out of the country.
  • Leave behind an address of where you will be staying, a mobile number on which you can be contacted, a copy of your passport, flight details, a copy of your ticket and a clear photograph of yourself and give them to someone you can trust.
  • Take with you a second mobile phone, topped up with at least £20, and keep it hidden from your family.
  • Find the nearest British Embassy to the location you will be staying online, write down the address and telephone number and keep it hidden. The Forced Marriage Unit works closely with British High Commissions in many countries. If you are in danger, contact a member of the embassy and they will be able to help.

What happens after I contact the Forced Marriage Unit?

There are laws designed to protect you, and depending on the severity of your case, you will may be entitled to police protection.

I am dependent on my parents. How can I leave home when I have no money or even a place to stay?

There are many organisations, such as JAN Trust, who can assist you.

  • If you are a minor, speak to your teacher or call the Forced Marriage Unit on 020 7008 0151.
  • If you are a female over 16, women’s charities and organisations, , such as JAN Trust will be able to advise you on your options, which may include going to a refuge which is a safe house for women. You can also call the Forced Marriage Unit on 020 7008 0151.
  • If you are a male over 16, call the Forced Marriage Unit for advice.
  • Alternatively call the FREE JAN Trust helpline on 0800 141 2994 on Wednesday's and Thursday’s. The line is open to both men and women

My family has threatened to harm me, or someone I know. What do I do if someone is hurt because I’ve refused to marry?

It is common for families to use emotional blackmail, guilt and threats to force someone into a marriage. If something happens, it is NOT your fault, and you are strongly advised to seek help. If this psychological pressure is making you feel lonely, talk to someone about how you feel. A trusted friend, teacher, the Forced Marriage Unit or JAN Trust can listen to your concerns and may be able to help. If you suspect that someone (including yourself) will be harmed in the future, call the Forced Marriage Unit or JAN Trust. In an emergency, call 999.

My family have told me that they will disown me if I don’t get married. I don’t want to get married but I don’t want to lose my family either. What can I do?

It is not always necessary to leave your family. However, it is true that young people who refuse a marriage can sometimes be disowned by their families and have to leave. This is often a very difficult experience, particularly if you are dependent on your family. The first few months are usually the hardest, but there are many organisations, such as JAN Trust, who can help you get back on your feet.

You can receive emotional support, employment training and may be entitled to financial assistance. There might even be the possibility of reconciling with your family in the future through mediation with a third party, but only if you want to. There are many people who work at advice groups, refuges or charities who have faced similar circumstances because of refusing a forced marriage, and they have rebuilt their lives and gone on to be extremely successful.

I am already in a forced marriage. Can anything be done for me or is it too late?

It is NOT too late. Forced marriages are illegal in the UK and there have been cases where marriages of four years or more have been overturned. Even if you have been taken abroad and married by force, the Forced Marriage Unit can work with British High Commissions around the world and arrange help if you contact them. For further help in overturning a forced marriage, call the Forced Marriage Unit on 020 7008 0151, or call the JAN Trust helpline 0800 141 2994. All calls are kept strictly confidential and you can arrange for a safe intervention without your family or partner’s knowledge. JAN Trust also welcomes calls from male victims.

If I have been forced into a marriage, can I decline to sponsor my partner for a British visa? Will the reason be kept confidential?

No, the reason for a declined British visa application will NOT be kept confidential and the applicant will have the full right to enquire. There are a number of options you can pursue in this case, including declining to sponsor the visa by declaring it a forced marriage (in which case your spouse will have full access to the reasons) or agreeing to provide the visa and seek action on entering the UK. Call the Forced Marriage Unit for further help.

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