Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) today launched an
initiative to make sure that police are equipped with the skills
and understanding needed to help victims of forced marriage.
Guidelines have been drawn up following more than a year's
consultation with the police, non-governmental organisations, and
communities throughout the country. The guidelines will be
distributed to every police force in the country and it is hoped
they will make it easier for anyone who is, or who fears they may
become, the victim of a forced marriage to approach the police.
Baroness Amos, FCO minister with responsibility for consular
'I am pleased to be launching these guidelines in partnership
with my colleagues from the Home Office, and the Association
of Chief Police Officers. Through broad consultation we have
not only demonstrated our commitment to the protection of
young people, but our commitment to getting it right.
'We are not against arranged marriages. They are an
important and valuable part of many cultural traditions, and
involves the consent of both parties. In a forced marriage
consent is missing, that is why it is wrong. The launch of
the police guidelines today marks real progress. Once
implemented, they will make a great difference.'
Home Office minister Angela Eagle said:
'Forcing a young person to marry against their will is a
breach of their fundamental human rights and the government is
working hard to put an end to this practice.
'These guidelines will be a vital tool for police dealing
with the problem of forced marriages out in the community.
The guidelines ensure that police are an expert and supportive
source of advice and assistance, both for victims attempting
to escape a forced marriage, and for those being forced to
marry in the first place. I hope that everyone will have the
confidence to approach the police in the knowledge that their
help can be vital.'
Bernard Hogan-Howe, chairman of the ACPO Gender Working Group and
assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, said:
'Today's launch of the forced marriages guidelines is very
important. It puts the police service on notice as to three
'That forced marriages are a significant issue for the
Service to work on. Where crimes occur they should be
thoroughly investigated. A forced marriage means a marriage
without the consent of one of the parties. It does not
include arranged marriages. We need to count how many reports
of forced marriages there are and to monitor how we deal with
them. Overall it is a sensitive issue which requires
- In the past year the Community Liaison Unit has dealt with over
240 cases, and has helped to repatriate around 60 young people.
Approximately 85% of cases involve female victims, 15 % male
victims.The Unit's work on this issue is not specific to any one
- The Community Liaison Unit is based in the Human Rights Section
of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Consular Division. This
reflects the fact that the Unit's work is very much focussed on
protecting the human rights of victims and potential victims. (The
Universal Declaration on Human Rights, article 16 (1): 'Marriage
shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the
- A summary of the guidelines follows.
Quick Guide to Police Guidelines on Forced Marriage
These guidelines form part of the actions taken in this country and overseas to prevent and remedy serious criminal offences and abuses of human rights associated with forced marriage.
The guidelines are split into four areas:
- Introduction to Forced Marriage
- General Guidelines for All Cases
- Guidelines for Trained / Specialist Officers
- Best Practice
The guidelines also includes appendices on the work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Community Liaison Group, British High Commission contacts, UK police force overseas links, National support agencies, and the Domestic Violence Concession.
The difference between arranged and forced marriage
The tradition of arranged marriages has operated successfully within many communities and many countries for a very long time. A clear distinction must be made between a forced marriage and an arranged marriage. In arranged marriages the families of both spouses take a lead role in arranging the marriage but the choice whether to accept the arrangement remains with the individuals. In forced marriage at least one party does not consent to the marriage and some element of duress is involved.
Criminal law and forced marriage
Although there is no specific criminal offence of 'forcing someone to marry' within England and Wales, the law does provide protection from the crimes that can be committed when forcing someone into a marriage. Perpetrators - usually parents or family members - have been prosecuted for offences including threatening behaviour, harassment, assault, kidnap and murder. Sexual intercourse without consent is rape.
The needs of victims of forced marriage will vary widely. They may need help avoiding a threatened forced marriage. They may need help dealing with the consequences of a forced marriage that has already taken place.
Whatever an individual's circumstances, there are basic needs that should always be considered, including:
- Personal Safety
- Accurate information about rights and choices
General guidelines for all cases
Information about a forced marriage may be received from the victim or from a friend or relative, or from another agency or non-governmental organisations (NGO). Forced marriage may also become apparent through careful questioning in the course of investigating other incidents/crimes such as domestic violence, assault, abduction or missing persons. If the victim is present the 'first steps'should be taken.
Cases of forced marriage can involve complex and sensitive issues that should receive the attention of an Inspector or an officer trained/selected to deal with such matters. Only if there would be unreasonable delay before a suitable officer can attend should front desk staff take the 'Additional Steps'.
Example of First Steps
- Recognise and respect the victim's wishes.
- See the individual immediately in a secure and private place
- Reassure the victim of police confidentiality.
- Contact, as soon as possible, a trained/specialist officer who has responsibility for such matters, the local domestic violence officer or, in their absence, the duty Inspector/Sergeant.
- Send the individual away in the belief that this is not a police matter.
- Approach the family unless the individual expressly asks you to do so.
- Breach confidentiality.
- Attempt to be a mediator.
Example of Additional Steps
- Give the individual, where possible, the choice of the race and gender of the officer who deals with their case.
- Inform them of their legal rights, and give them personal safety advice.
- Secure evidence at all stages as a prosecution may follow.
Guidelines for trained/specialist officers
Experience shows that there are four types of situation that a trained/specialist officer dealing with cases of forced marriage is likely to encounter. The situations and the appropriate police responses are set out in four sections in the guidelines. The sections are:
Section A:An individual who fears they may be forced to marry in the UK or overseas.
Section B:A report by a third party of an individual having been taken abroad for the purpose of a forced marriage.
Section C:An individual who has already been forced to marry.
Section D:A spouse who has come to the UK from overseas.
The guidelines provide best practice guidance on the following areas:
- Venue for interviews
- Medical examination
- Future contact and meetings
- Confidentiality and security of information
- Gathering essential information and intelligence
- Dual nationality
- Difficulties faced when overseas
- Individuals under the age of 18 years
- Police protection for individuals under the age of 18 years
- Missing persons
- Personal safety advice and devising exit strategies
- Individual rights
- Human rights
- Offences associated with forced marriage
- Civil law
- Partnerships with other agencies and organisations
Everyone's fundamental human rights should be respected. Forced marriage is an infringement of those rights.
'Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.'
(Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 16 (2))
'A woman's right to choose a spouse and enter freely into a marriage is central to her life and her dignity and equality as a human being.'
(General recommendation No.21, UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women)
Possible offences associated with forced marriage
- Common assault
- Cruelty to persons under 16
- Failure to secure regular attendance at school of a registered pupil
- Theft (i.e. passport)
- Child Abduction
- Abduction of unmarried girl under the age of 16 from parent or guardian
- Abduction of a woman by force or for the sake of her property
- Aiding and abetting a criminal offence
- False imprisonment
Note: This list is not intended to be exhaustive
Community Liaison Unit at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
The staff of the Community Liaison Unit (CLU) can offer advice and assistance to people who:
- Fear that they are going to be forced into a marriage abroad
- Fear for a friend or relative who has been taken abroad and may be forced into a marriage
- Have been forced into a marriage and do not want to support their spouse's visa application.
The unit can assist police by:
- Co-ordinating with Embassies and British High Commissions
- Advising on and accessing overseas non-governmental organisations
- Accessing police overseas
- Providing consular protection through overseas Embassies and High Commissions
- Providing information about existing networks within the UK, including police and non-governmental organisations
Domestic violence concession
The domestic violence concession was introduced on 16 June 1999 to assist those subject to immigration control, whose marriage breaks down during the probationary year as a result of domestic violence. It provides for the person to be granted settlement, exceptionally outside the Immigration Rules, if the domestic violence occurred while the marriage was subsisting and the applicant is able to produce specified forms of evidence.