2.23 Forced marriage
The procedure provides information about forced marriage; the roles and functions of relevant agencies and the procedures practitioners should follow to ensure the safety and well-being of children who may be at risk, or are forced in to marriage.
Also see Honour-based violence.
- Religion and culture
- Incidence of forced marriage
- Reasons given for forced marriage
- Aggravating factors
- Legal position
- Possible indicators that a child/young person or adult is at risk of/subject to forced marriage
- The ‘one chance’ rule
- Initial steps
- Procedures for safeguarding children, young people from incidents of forced marriage
- Use of interpreters
- Further information
- Appendix 1: Information required for all cases
- Appendix 2: Role and responsibility of key agencies
- Appendix 3: Guidance on safety planning
- Appendix 4: Flowchart for referral of a child/young person
This policy and procedures document is produced to support all professionals working with, children, young people and their families in any capacity, to identify and respond to situations where they believe, a child or a young person may be at risk of or subject to a forced marriage.
The safety of any siblings of a child or young person should be taken into consideration as they may also be potentially at risk of forced marriage.
It is important that this protocol is used alongside any existing procedures within your organisation or local area and that you also have regard to safeguarding policies and procedures.
There is a clear distinction between a forced marriage and an arranged marriage. In arranged marriages, the families of both spouses take a leading role in arranging the marriage but the choice of whether or not to accept the arrangement remains with the people getting married. The tradition of arranged marriages has operated successfully within many communities and many countries for a very long time.
In a forced marriage, one or both spouses do not consent to the arrangement of the marriage and some elements of duress are involved. Duress can include both physical and psychological pressure.
Forced marriage is an abuse of human rights, and where one or both of the victims is under the age of 18 it is also a child protection issue. It can constitute both child abuse and sexual abuse. The United Nations considers it a form of trafficking, sexual slavery, and exploitation. Some, however, still see it as a private, personal, domestic, family, religious, or cultural issue.
The Forced Marriage Unit defines forced marriage as:
“A forced marriage is where one or both people do not (or those who lack capacity, cannot) consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used. It is an appalling and indefensible practice and is recognised in the UK as a form of violence against women and men, domestic/child abuse and a serious abuse of human rights.
The pressure put on people to marry against their will can be physical (including threats, actual physical violence and sexual violence) or emotional (for example, threatening to kill themselves) and psychological (for example, when someone is made to feel like they’re bringing shame on their family). Financial abuse (taking their wages or not giving them any money) can also be a factor.”
Forced Marriage is primarily an issue of violence against women. Most cases involve young women and girls aged between 13 and 30 but it happens to men and boys too. See Legal position.
Religion and culture
There is a common misconception that forced marriages are confined to certain religious groups and cultures, however this is not the case. The practice of forced marriage is not confined to one culture or religious group and can happen regardless of ethnicity, culture, religion, disability, age, gender and sexuality. Any person can find themselves in a situation where they are offered no choice but to proceed with the marriage.
Forced marriage, whether a religious or civil ceremony, cannot be justified on religious grounds. Parents who force their children to marry often justify their behaviour as protecting their children, building strong families and preserving cultural or religious traditions. Every major faith condemns forced marriage and freely given consent is a prerequisite of Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh marriages. None of the world's major religions condone honour-related crimes but perpetrators sometimes try to justify their actions on religious grounds.
Incidence of forced marriage
The government regards forced marriage as an abuse of human rights and a form of domestic abuse and, where it affects children and young people, child abuse.
It can happen to both men and women although most cases involve young women and girls aged between 13 and 30. There is no ‘typical’ victim of forced marriage. Some may be under 18 years old, some may be over 18 years old, some may have a disability, some may have young children and some may be spouses from overseas.
The majority of cases of forced marriage reported to date in the UK involve South Asian families. This is partly a reflection of the fact that there is a large, established South Asian population in the UK. However, it is clear that forced marriage is not solely a South Asian issue and there have been cases involving families from East Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Eastern Europe and Africa.
Some forced marriages take place in the UK with no overseas element, while others involve a partner coming from overseas or a British national being sent abroad
Reasons given for forced marriage
- Cultural or religious traditions.
- Controlling unwanted behaviour including promiscuity or being gay or lesbian.
- Protecting ‘family honour’.
- Responding to peer group or family pressure.
- Attempting to strengthen family links.
- Ensuring land, property and wealth remain within the family.
- Protecting religious and cultural ideas which are misguided.
- Preventing ‘unsuitable’ relationships e.g. outside the ethnic, cultural religious or caste group.
- Assisting claims for residence and citizenship.
- Fulfilling long-standing family commitments.
- Protecting the future of children and young people who may have a disability.
There is evidence to suggest that there may be factors that increase the likelihood of someone being at risk of forced marriage. These factors include bereavement within the family. Occasionally, when a parent dies, especially the father, the remaining parent may feel there is more of an urgency to ensure that the child/vulnerable adult is married. A similar situation may arise within single parent households or when a stepparent moves in with the family.
Women and girls may have an increased risk of forced marriage if they have disclosed sexual abuse. Parents may feel that this has brought shame on her and that ensuring that she is married may restore honour to the family. They may also feel that marriage will put a stop to the abuse. A person may be at greater risk if they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, as their parents may feel that by forcing them to marry their sexuality or gender identity will not be questioned. Parents may also do so out of a mistaken belief that this will ‘cure’ their son or daughter of what they perceive to be abnormal sexual practices.
Children and young people with learning difficulties may also be at increased risk of forced marriage where a family may believe that a marriage of any sort may secure a future and provide support for a person with learning difficulties once parents are deceased.
There are criminal sanctions and civil remedies in relation to forced marriage. It is important to be guided by victims as to which route they wish to take. This is not an exhaustive list. In the case of safeguarding concerns any action taken should be supported by multi agency support through relevant policies.
The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 made it a criminal offence, with effect from 16 June 2014, to force someone to marry. This includes:
- taking someone overseas to force them to marry (whether or not the forced marriage takes place)
- marrying someone who lacks the mental capacity to consent to the marriage (whether they’re pressured to or not).
The civil remedy of obtaining a Forced Marriage Protection Order through the family courts continues to exist alongside the criminal offence, so victims can choose how they wish to be assisted. Anyone threatened with forced marriage or forced to marry against their will can apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order. Third parties, such as relatives, friends, voluntary workers and police officers, can also apply for a protection order with the leave of the court. Guidance published by the Ministry of Justice explains how local authorities can apply for protection orders and provides information for other agencies. Breaching a Forced Marriage Protection Order is a criminal offence:
- Forcing someone to marry can result in a sentence of up to 7 years in prison.
- Disobeying a Forced Marriage Protection Order can result in a sentence of up to 5 years in prison.
The Matrimonial Causes Act (1973) legislates for a marriage not being valid if the parties have not freely consented to the marriage taking place or were under duress when the marriage took place. The Act also covers the area of mental capacity and whether or not the young person is able to make a decision in relation to marriage. The minimum age of consent under this legislation is 16 years of age.
Possible indicators that a child/young person or adult is at risk of/subject to forced marriage
People facing forced marriage may appear anxious, depressed and emotionally withdrawn with low self-esteem. They may come to the attention of practitioners for a variety of reasons.
Whilst the factors set out in the diagram may be, collectively or individually, an indication that someone is facing forced marriage, it should not be assumed that it is forced marriage simply on the basis that someone presents with one or more of these warning signs. Warning signs can be subtle or invisible. These indicators are not intended to be an exhaustive list.
These warning signs may indicate other types of abuse that will also require a multi-agency response.
The ‘one chance’ rule
All practitioners working with victims of forced marriage need to be aware of the ‘one chance’ rule. That is, they may only have one chance to speak to a potential victim and may only have one chance to save a life. This means that all practitioners working within statutory agencies need to be aware of their responsibilities and obligations when they become aware of potential forced marriage cases. If the victim is allowed to walk out the door without support being offered, that one chance might be wasted.
Coercion is likely to have been used with one or both spouses; by family members, friends and the wider community. This may include: threats of violence, being held against their will, emotional threats and other forms of coercion and harassment, such as not being allowed to go anywhere without being accompanied by someone.
Remembering the ‘one chance rule’ the agency should carefully question the person concerned as cases are complex and highly sensitive to the individual.
The reason behind the forced marriage may be due to sexuality or disability as well as cultural belief. The majority of victims will be women, but there are also male victims of forced marriage. All cases should be dealt with seriously.
Initially agencies must:
- see them immediately in a secure and private place where the conversation cannot be overheard
- see them on their own – even if they attend with others
- explain all the options to them
- recognise and respect their wishes
- perform a risk assessment – there are a number of risk assessment tools available, however it will be best to use a tool as guided by your specific agency/ LSCB
- contact a trained specialist (forced marriage specialist) as soon as possible
- where a young person is under 18 years of age, refer them to the designated person responsible for safeguarding children and activate local safeguarding procedures
- reassure the victim about confidentiality where appropriate i.e. practitioners will not inform their family
- establish and agree an effective method of contacting the victim discreetly in the future, possibly using a code word to confirm identity
- obtain full contact details that can be forwarded to a trained specialist
- where appropriate, consider the need for immediate protection and placement away from the family.
- send them away
- approach members of their family or the community – unless it involves a learning disability victim and you need to work alongside the family in assessing capacity
- share information/breach confidentiality with anyone without the victim’s express consent, unless there is an imminent risk of serious harm or threat to life of the victim
- attempt to be a mediator or encourage mediation, reconciliation, arbitration or family counselling
- make assumptions about communication requirements
- use relatives, friends, community leaders and neighbours as interpreters or translators.
Please see HM Government (2014) The Right to Choose: multi-agency statutory guidance for further guidance.
Procedures for safeguarding children, young people from incidents of forced marriage
Reports of forced marriage, including reports from victims who fear they may be forced to marry, must be taken seriously. For all young people under the age of 18 years, it will be appropriate to deal with the situation as a child protection issue.
Information or a referral about forced marriage may be received from an adult, a young person or from a friend or relative, the victim’s secret boyfriend/girlfriend or a statutory, voluntary or faith organisation. Forced marriage may also become apparent when other family issues are addressed such as domestic violence and abuse, self-harm, child abuse or neglect, family and adolescent conflict or missing children or runaways.
It is essential that whichever agency receives the first contact regarding an allegation of forced marriage, as much information as possible is obtained regarding the situation and the individuals involved. This may be the only opportunity to speak freely with the individual (see Appendix 1: Information required for all cases).
It will also be important to discuss how the child or young person can be kept safe during the period of the investigation and beyond, as well as outlining the action to be taken should there be an immediate threat to the child or young person's safety. This information should form the basis of the child or young person's safety plan. Further information regarding safety planning can be found in Appendix 3: Guidance on safety planning.
Any individual or agency who receives information, or has reason to believe that a child or young person is at risk of or subject to a forced marriage should make a referral to children’s social care.
Use of interpreters
Where necessary, the services of an interpreter should be sought who is appropriately trained. Careful consideration needs to be given as to the choice of the interpreter and to the information to which (s)he is to be made party.
There must be consideration as to whether using an interpreter from the local ethnic community may jeopardise or threaten the security of the young person. If there is seen to be a risk, then interpreting services should be sought elsewhere.
Interpreters should be subject to references and DBS checks. A written agreement regarding confidentiality of information should be signed. Wherever possible, the interpreter should be interpreting from his or her first language.
In cases where an interpreter is not used, and English is not the child's first language, the reasons for not using an interpreter should be recorded as part of the assessment.
Confidentiality is an extremely important issue for any child/young person threatened with, or already in, a forced marriage. A breach of confidentiality could lead to the death of the adult, child or young person.
Very careful consideration must be given to who is to be given what information, which must be on a 'need to know' basis only. This applies to professionals as well as members of the family or the community. Any disclosure, which could lead to the child/young person being traced, could put her or him at considerable risk of harm from family or others.
Approaches must not be made to the person's family, friends or those with influence within the community, without the express consent of the child/young person.
Information is not to be shared with anyone, without the express consent of the child/young person, unless it is necessary to do so in order to protect her or him. The best interests of the child/young person must be the paramount consideration.
In order to trace the whereabouts of the child at risk, sometimes families use organised networks, which can include family and community members, 'bounty hunters' (individuals paid by a family to track down and return the child at risk against their will, sometimes using extreme force), taxi drivers, shop keepers and people who have access to records such as staff from benefits offices, GP surgeries and housing departments. Information on case files and database files should be kept strictly confidential and preferably restricted to named members of staff only, in all involved agencies. All professionals and particularly those in children's social care should very carefully consider, in these special circumstances, what information is placed on accessible computer systems, own agency records, and reports to, and records of, inter-agency discussions/meetings.
Social workers and other professionals may be placed under pressure from relatives, councillors, MPs and those with influence within the community to say where a child at risk of forced marriage is. Under no circumstances is this information to be divulged.
If professionals are being pressured to disclose confidential information this matter should be brought to the attention of their immediate line manager for action.
If for any reason it is not appropriate to discuss this with the direct line manager or other managers within their agency, then professionals should contact the Senior Lead for Child Protection either within their own agency or from another organisation. Should it become apparent that confidential information has been divulged by an individual in a position of trust, this will be shared with their own organisation and they will be subject to disciplinary procedures and/or criminal investigation.
In cases of forced marriage, it is essential to consider other siblings in the family that may be at risk of, the same abuse.
Accurate record keeping in all cases suspected forced marriage incidence is important. Records should:
- be accurate, detailed, clear and include the date
- use the person’s own words in quotation marks
- document any injuries – include photographs, body maps or pictures of their injuries
- only be available to those directly involved in the person’s case.
Practitioners must take care that information which increases the risk to the child is not inadvertently shared with family members.
- The Right to Choose - Multi Agency Guidance in Relation to Forced Marriage (HM Government, June 2014).
- Multi Agency Practice Guidance: Handling Cases of Forced Marriage (June 2014)
- Guidance for Local Authorities on Applying for Forced Marriage Protection Orders, (Ministry of Justice, November 2009).
Further advice can be sought from the Forced Marriage Unit if the victim’s/s are already abroad or if there is a threat to move them abroad imminently.
On 16th June 2014 the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 was which introduced criminal offences of forcing someone to marry, and breaching a Forced Marriage Protection Order.
Under section 120 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 Act, the maximum penalty for breach of a forced marriage protection order is five years’ imprisonment.
National Support Agencies
Below are some examples of national support agencies. For a more extensive list please see page 67 of the HM Multi Agency Practice guidelines
Child Line: 0800 1111
A service for any child or young person with a problem.
Citizens Advice Bureau
Offering free, confidential and impartial information on, for example, benefits, immigration, family and personal matters - see local telephone directory.
Language Line: 020 7520 1430
Can provide an interpreter on the telephone immediately in 100 different languages, 24 hours a day.
Local Women's Aid refuge services: Womens Aid
Refuge projects, which can include advice centres, drop-in centres, outreach services.
NSPCC Asian Child Protection Helpline: 0800 096 7719
A free confidential service for anyone concerned about children at risk of harm, also connects vulnerable young people, particularly runaways, to services that can help.
NSPCC Child Protection Helpline: 0808 800 500 Text Phone: 0800 056 0566
A free confidential service for anyone concerned about children at risk of harm, also connects vulnerable young people, particularly runaways, to services that can help.
24hr Women's Domestic Violence and Abuse Helpline - 0808 200 0247 (freephone)
Victim Support - 0845 303 0900
The Forced Marriage Unit
The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) is the Government's central unit dealing with forced marriage casework, policy and projects. The FMU provides confidential information and assistance to potential victims and concerned professionals. It works with partners both in the UK and overseas to ensure that all appropriate action is taken to prevent a forced marriage taking place.
The FMU also provides advice and information to individuals who have already been forced to marry. All caseworkers in the FMU have wide experience of the cultural, social and emotional issues surrounding forced marriage.
The staff can offer advice and assistance to individuals who:
- Fear that they are going to be forced into a marriage (in the UK or overseas);
- Fear for a friend or relative who may be forced into a marriage (in the UK or overseas);
- Have been forced into a marriage and do not want to support their spouse's visa application.
The staff can assist professionals by:
- Providing information about existing networks within the UK, including Social Services, Police and non-governmental organisations;
- Providing advice about legal remedies in the UK and overseas.
Appendix 1: Information required for all cases
- Obtain details of the individual making the report, their contact details, and their relationship with the young person.
- Obtain details of the young person under threat including:
- Date of report
- Name of individual under threat
- Date and place of birth
- Passport details
- School details
- Employment details
- Full details of allegation
- Name and address of parents
- National Insurance Number
- Details of any travel plans e.g. date, flight numbers, airline, destination and date of departure
- Outline of Safety Plan
- First language
- Particular needs i.e. hearing/visual impairment, learning disability etc.
- Obtain a list from the young person under threat of all those friends and family who can be trusted.
- Establish a code word to ensure you are speaking to the right person.
- Establish a way of contacting them discreetly in the future that will not put them at risk of harm.
- Obtain any background information including schools attended, involvement by Police, doctors or other health services, etc.
- Record details about any threats or hostile actions against the young person, whether reported by the victim or a third party.
- Obtain a recent photograph and other identifying documents. Document any other distinguishing features such as birthmarks and tattoos, etc. Remember to get the consent form signed.
- Establish the nature and level or risk to the safety of the individual (e.g. they are pregnant, do they have a secret boyfriend/girlfriend, are they self-harming, are they already secretly married?).
- Establish if there are any other family members at risk of forced marriages or if there is a history of forced marriages and abuse within the wider family/community.
- Check all Children's Services records for past referrals of family members including siblings. This may also involve checks with other local authorities.
- Local schools
- Local education authority
- Voters register
- Benefits agency
- Passport office
- Child protection register
- Police databases, including domestic violence and abuse databases
- Housing agencies
- Health services
- Voluntary groups.
This must be done in a discreet manner.
If the young person is going overseas the following is required:
- Emergency money.
- A photocopy of the young person’s passport for retention. Encourage them to keep details of their passport number and the place and date of issue. If a choice is available, use a British passport to travel on.
- As much information as possible about the family is required (this will need to be gathered discreetly) including:
- Full name of young person.
- Their father's name.
- Any addresses where the young person may be staying overseas.
- Potential spouse's name.
- Date of proposed wedding.
- The name of the potential spouse's father/address/village (if known).
- Addresses of the extended family in the UK and overseas and maps of the area, if possible.
- Information that only the young person would be aware of (this may assist any subsequent interview at an Embassy/British High Commission in case another person of the same sex/age is produced pretending to be the young person).
- Details of any travel plans and people likely to accompany the young person.
- Names and addresses of any close relatives remaining in the UK.
- A safe means by which contact may be made with the young person, e.g. a mobile telephone that will function overseas. Record the number.
- Details of safe third party, in order to maintain contact in case the young person contacts them whilst overseas or on their return.
- An estimated return date. Ask that they contact you without fail on their return
- A written statement by the young person explaining that they want social services or a third party to act on their behalf if they do not return by a certain date.
- If the family is approached, they may deny that the young person is being forced to marry, move the young person, expedite any travel arrangements and bring forward the forced marriage.
- Report details of the case, with full family history, to the Community Liaison Unit at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Page 44 - Practice Guidance for Social Workers). Encourage the young person to get in touch with the Community Liaison Unit. The Unit gives advice to young people who fear they may be forced to marry.
- When referring a case of forced marriage to other organisation/agencies, ensure they are capable of handling the case appropriately. If in doubt, consider approaching established women's groups, who have a history of working with survivors of domestic violence and abuse, and forced marriage, and ask these groups to refer them to reputable agencies.
Appendix 2: Role and responsibility of key agencies
Role of Children’s Social Care
Children’s social care has a duty under s.47 Children Act 1989 to make enquiries when they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm. This includes allegations of abuse or neglect against a child. Forced marriage is child abuse and can put children and young people at risk of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Although children’s social care needs to be sensitive to cultural and racial differences, they also have a clear overriding duty to identify children who are likely to suffer significant harm, and to invoke the necessary safeguarding children procedures. The personal safety of the child or young person must be put first.
Mediation involving the family can place a child or young person in danger and should not be undertaken as a response to forced marriage. This includes visiting the family to ask them whether they are intending to force their child to marry or writing a letter to the family requesting a meeting about their child’s allegation that they are being forced to marry. Any professional or member of the public concerned that a child may be at risk of significant harm, should make a referral to Children’s Services without delay.
A child or young person may approach children's social care because they are going on a family holiday overseas and they are concerned about this. Often they have been told that the purpose is to visit relatives, attend a wedding or because of the illness of a grandparent or close relative. The child or young person may suspect that this is a ploy and that there is an ulterior motive, which is to force them to marry.
Do not assume that a child or young person is at risk of being forced into marriage simply on the basis that they are being taken on an extended family holiday. These assumptions and stereotyping can cause considerable distress to families. All efforts should be made to establish the full facts of the case at the earliest opportunity
In addition to the general action as set out in chapter 10.
- Check police and social services’ records for past referrals of family members, e.g. domestic abuse or missing persons within the family.
- Talk to them about whether they can avoid going overseas and discuss the difficulties they may face.
- Discuss the implications of dual nationality.
- Seek advice from the local authority legal department.
- Establish whether there is a family history of forced marriage i.e. siblings forced to marry. Other indicators may include domestic abuse, self-harm, family disputes, unreasonable restrictions (e.g. withdrawal from education or ‘house arrest’) or missing persons within the family.
- Consider liaising with the school to identify any concerns.
- Consider obtaining a court order such as wardship and a forced marriage protection order to protect the child or young person or to prevent them being taken overseas.
- Refer them, with their consent, to appropriate local and national support groups that have a history of working with survivors of domestic abuse and forced marriage.
In all cases, the social worker needs to discuss the range of options available with the child or young person and the possible consequences of their chosen course of action. Family group conferences are not normally appropriate in cases of forced marriage because it will often place the child or young person at greater risk of harm.
What to do when a third party reports that a child or young person has been taken overseas for the purpose of a forced marriage.
Sometimes a child or young person is taken overseas on the pretext of a family holiday, the wedding of a relative or the illness of a grandparent. On arrival, their documents, passports, money and mobile phones are often taken away from them. Some even report their parents drugging them. In these cases, it may be a concerned friend, relative, partner or practitioner that reports the child or young person missing. These cases may initially be reported to the Forced Marriage Unit, police, education professionals, or a voluntary group.
As with all cases of forced marriage, confidentiality and discretion are vitally important. It is not advisable to immediately contact an overseas organisation to make enquiries. If, through your actions, the family becomes aware that enquiries are being made, they may move the child or young person to another location or expedite the forced marriage.
In addition to the general action as set out in chapter 10.
- Liaise with the police and check existing missing person reports.
- Obtain details of, and maintain contact with, the third party in case the young person contacts them whilst overseas or on their return.
- Seek advice from the local authority legal department.
- Consider asking an Education Officer to make enquiries.
- Use existing national and local protocols for inter-agency liaison.
- Extreme care should be taken not to disclose information to the overseas police or any other overseas organisation that could place the young person in further danger e.g. disclosure about previous/current boyfriends or partners in the UK.
- Reassure the third party that if the child or young person being held overseas wishes to return to the UK (if they are a British national), the Foreign & Commonwealth Office can try to repatriate them as soon as possible.
- Ascertain if anyone else is aware of the situation and establish whether enquiries have already been made. Is there evidence to support forced marriage and other abuses?
- Dissuade the third party and others from making enquiries and taking action independently of children's social care and the police.
- Find and document any evidence to confirm the threat of a forced marriage and any related abuse.
- Refer the third party for support to appropriate local and national support groups that have a history of assisting in cases of forced marriage and domestic abuse.
- Go directly to the young person's family, friends, or those people with influence within the community, as this will alert them to your enquiries and may place the young person in further danger.
If a child or young person has already been forced into marriage
There may be occasions when a child or young person approaches children's social care or the police because they are concerned that they may need to act as a sponsor for their spouse's immigration to the UK.
Confronting the family may be extremely risky for the child or young person. They may not get the support they hope for and further pressure may be put on them to support the visa application. These risks must be discussed with the child or young person if only to exclude this option.
Cases of forced marriage may initially be reported to children's social care as cases of domestic abuse. Spouses forced into marriage may suffer domestic abuse but feel unable to leave due to a lack of family support, economic pressures and other social circumstances – some may fear losing their children.
- Follow the general action as set out in chapter 10.
- Collect as much as possible of the information required (See Appendix 1)
- Refer to warning signs in section (Section 8).
- Record full details of the young person together with details of marriage including date and place.
- Record the name, address and date of birth of the spouse together with interview dates for their visa (if known).
Handling cases of forced marriage
- Refer to the Forced Marriage Unit if the marriage has an overseas dimension or the child or young person has concerns about their “spouse” getting a visa.
- If they require specific legal advice suggest they independently consult a family panel solicitor.
- If the child or young person does not want to return to the family home, then a strategy for leaving home should be devised and personal safety advice discussed.
- If the child or young person wishes to remain at the family home, try to maintain contact without placing them at risk.
- Maintaining contact using community workers, health workers etc.
- Referring the child or young person to a police officer with responsibility for safeguarding children.
- Referring them, with their consent, to appropriate local and national support groups, counselling services and women’s groups that have a history of working with survivors of domestic abuse and forced marriage.
- Using the legal remedies below to protect the child or young person from family members if they decide to leave the family home or wish the spouse to leave the family home.
When a child or young person is repatriated
Sometimes the Forced Marriage Unit may ask a children’s social care for assistance when a child or young person is being repatriated to the UK from overseas.
In these cases, the child or young person may be extremely traumatised and frightened. They may have been held against their will for many months. They may have suffered emotional and physical abuse and the child or young person may have been raped, sometimes repeatedly or until they become pregnant. Sometimes a child or young person will have risked their life to escape and their family may go to considerable lengths to find them. This makes all victims particularly vulnerable when they return to the UK.
When a child or young person who is a British national arrives at, or contacts, a British Embassy or High Commission, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office can try to repatriate them as soon as possible. Unfortunately, due to the urgency of the situation, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office may not be able to give children's social care a great deal of notice of the child or young person’s arrival.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office is obliged to explore all options for funding the cost of repatriation. For victims who are children or young people, this means asking the young person themselves, a trusted friend or children’s social care or a school or college if they are able to meet the costs of repatriation. However, this should never delay the process of getting the child or young person to safety.
- Arrange for someone to meet the child or young person at the airport e.g. a social worker, police officer (there is a child protection officer at Heathrow airport) or reliable, sympathetic adult. Where necessary, contact an appropriate national support agency for further advice on assisting repatriated victims of forced marriage.
- Contact “Travel Care” if the young person is arriving at Heathrow or Gatwick.
- Inform police in case family members try to abduct the young person at the airport.
- Explain the options available.
- Consider whether it is appropriate to apply for an emergency protection order or an interim care order.
- Organise safe and secure accommodation.
- If the young person is under 17 years old and it is not appropriate to apply for a care order, inform the police that the young person’s family may attempt to locate them.
- Children's social care should actively encourage children and young people to be accommodated outside the immediate geographical area. They should liaise with other agencies in order to provide safe accommodation. The child or young person may need practical help e.g. emergency cash, clothes and toiletries etc.
- Under s.17 Children Act (1989), social care services may make a payment for a child in need, including the cost of accommodation. The local authority within which the child or young person had their last permanent residence should provide funding.
- Meet them at their new address, refuge, or friend’s house. You may be followed.
- Put the child or young person at risk of harm.
- Put yourself at risk of harm.
- Send the child or young person back to the family home against their wishes.
- Inform family members or friends of the young person’s whereabouts.
- Attempt to be a mediator or encourage mediation, reconciliation, arbitration or family counselling.
- Arranging a foster family from the same community as the child or young person may not be appropriate and may place the child or young person at risk of harm. A child or young person might wish to be fostered outside the immediate geographical area.
- With the child or young person’s consent, accommodating or relocating them with a different local authority. This may require a transition period where funding and support need to be negotiated.
- Referring them, with their consent, to appropriate local and national support groups, counselling services and women’s groups that have a history of working with survivors of domestic abuse and forced marriage.
- Taking active steps to ensure that the child or young person’s identity together with their benefit and other records are kept confidential. This may involve witness protection schemes or seeking legal advice for a child or young person to change their name and National Insurance number.
- Assessing the risk to any other siblings, now and in the future. Younger siblings might be at risk of being forced to marry when they reach a similar age. Consider speaking to younger siblings to explain the risk of forced marriage and give them information about the help available.
- The following information is needed for the referral; (If you do not have all the information listed, still make the referral - do not delay.)
- Name of child/young person (check all names are spelled correctly)
- Age (check date of birth as accurate as possible)
- Details of any siblings
- Parent’s name(s) (check the surname of the parent is accurate)
- Home address (telephone number if available)
- Special circumstances; for example, language barriers, context disclosure took place etc. What prompted the concerns (include as much detail as possible, including dates, times etc.
- Any physical or behavioural signs
- Is the person making the report expressing their own concerns or passing on those of someone else? If so record details
- Has the child/young person been spoken to? If so, what was said?
- Is anyone alleged to be the abuser? If so, record details
- Has anyone else been consulted? If so record the details
- Children’s social care will ensure they notify the Legal Department and a strategy discussion will need to take place as a matter of urgency.
- The strategy discussion should determine whether the risk to the child is imminent, if yes, immediate legal advice should be sought and agreements made on how to keep the child/young person safe. Police and Children’s Services should consider at this stage the legal options available to them by way of Police Protection Order, Emergency Protection Order and/or a Forced Marriage Protection Order.
- In the event that a Local Authority placement is perceived as appropriate, the carer who the child/young person is being placed with should be given information and advice on the possible risks associated with the child/young person posed by close family members, extended family members and community groups, and consideration of this should be made when identifying a placement.
- Police should also consider placing a location of interest sig marker on the address where the child/young person is accommodated. (See Role of the Police).
- Once the initial strategy discussion and/or any actions agreed to keep the child/young person safe have been undertaken, a referral to the Safeguarding Unit should be made and a strategy meeting convened as quickly as possible and within 7 days.
- The strategy meeting should involve representatives from Children’s Services, referring agency, Legal Department of the Local Authority, Police, Education, Health, and, where appropriate, UK Border Agency (UKBA). The strategy meeting should discuss the allegation of forced marriage and agree strategies to address the risks to the child/young person and any other children residing within the property/ living with the parents.
- Flow chart for the process is included in appendix 3.
Role of the police
Police have a number of responsibilities in relation to forced marriage. These include, protecting victims, investigating any crimes associated with forcing someone to marry and assisting the prosecution as well as supporting the witnesses.
Remembering the “one chance rule‟ the police should be aware that a victim who has contacted the police for assistance will be at crisis point, therefore should ensure incidents are dealt with sensitively, safely and effectively, adhering to the “one chance rule”.
When an officer suspects a forced marriage they will:
- See them immediately in a secure and private place where the conversation cannot be overheard
- See them on their own – even if they attend with others
- Will work through an aide-memoire which directs police to consider all risk factors and will direct them to take their DNA, photographs, fingerprints and family tree
- Explain all their options to them
- Recognise and respect their wishes
- Perform a risk assessment,
- Contact, as soon as possible, the public protection unit and duty Inspector
- Consideration will be given to a threats to life assessment
- If the young person is under 18 years of age, refer them to children’s services and the public protection unit's child abuse investigation team. A police protection order will always be considered:
- If the person is an adult with care and support needs, refer them to the adult social care
- Reassure them about confidentiality i.e. practitioners will not inform their family
- Establish a way of contacting them discreetly in the future
- Consider the need for immediate protection and placement away from the family
- Record any injuries and arrange a medical examination
- Give them personal safety advice
- Develop a safety plan
- Establish if there is a family history of forced marriage, e.g. siblings forced to marry. Other indicators may include domestic violence, self-harm, family disputes, unreasonable restrictions (e.g. withdrawal from education or “house arrest”) or missing persons within the family
- Advise them not to travel overseas. Discuss the difficulties they may face. If foreign travel with the family becomes unavoidable, take the precautions set out by the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU)
- Identify any potential criminal offences and record any offences as per the home office counting rules. Police will be victim focussed and will liaise will CPS in all criminal cases
- Give them advice on what service or support they should expect and from whom
- Ensure that they have the contact details for all relevant support
- Maintain a full record of the decisions made and the reason for those decisions
- Information will be restricted and on a paper file
- HBA/FM markers will be created on relevant police systems and the police OASIS log restricted
- Refer them, with their consent, to appropriate local and national support groups, counselling services and women’s groups that have a history of working with survivors of domestic abuse and forced marriage
- Where appropriate discuss the case with the Forced Marriage Unit
- Consider whether a communication specialist is needed if the victim is deaf, visually impaired or has learning disabilities.
- Check police and social services’ records for past referrals of family members including siblings – e.g. domestic abuse or missing persons within the family.
Role of schools and colleges
- Schools (including independent schools and non-maintained special schools) and Further Education institutions should give effect to their duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of their pupils (students under 18 years of age in the case of FE institutions) under Working Together to Safeguard Children, the Education Act 2002 and, where appropriate, under the Children Act 1989.
- Members of staff have a crucial role to play in helping identify welfare concerns and indicators of possible abuse or neglect, at an early stage. They should refer those concerns to the appropriate organisation, normally local authority children’s social care, contributing to the assessment of a child’s needs and, where appropriate, ensure ongoing action to meet those needs.
- Schools & colleges should create and maintain a safe learning environment for children and young people and also contribute through the curriculum by developing children’s understanding, awareness and resilience, creating an open and supportive environment. (Working together to safeguard children).
What to do when you are concerned that a student may be forced to marry:
Staff may be concerned about a student because they are exhibiting some of the behaviour shown in the list of potential warning signs and indicators. Alternatively, a student may approach a member of staff because they are going on a family holiday overseas and they are concerned about this. They are often told that the purpose is to visit relatives, attend a wedding or because of the illness of a grandparent or close relative. The student may suspect that this is a ploy and that there is an ulterior motive, which is to force them to marry.
Do not assume that a student is at risk of being forced into marriage simply on the basis that they are being taken on an extended family holiday. These assumptions and such stereotyping can cause considerable distress to families. All efforts should be made to establish the full facts from the student at the earliest opportunity.
Once the full facts have been established, the member of staff should be able to decide on the level of response required. This may be to offer the student advice or to provide them with all information about specialist advice and services. However, there may be occasions when the level of concern becomes a child protection issue; in these cases, the appropriate child protection procedures will need to be followed.
- Staff must collect as much information as possible as set out in ‘Initial Steps’.
- Recognise and respect the student’s wishes. If the student does not want any referral to be made, e.g. to social services, the teacher, lecturer or other member of staff will need to consider whether the student’s wishes should be respected or whether the student’s safety requires that further action be taken. If you do take action against the student’s wishes, you must inform, however this can only be consider where a young person is 18 years of over. For a child under the age of 18, a referral MUST be made.
- Staff must liaise immediately with the designated teacher who has the responsibility for safeguarding children at their respective institution and seek advice from the Forced Marriage Unit and other related services (See Appendix 5 – useful contacts)
- Liaise with the local police and social services to establish if any incidents concerning the family have been reported (e.g. missing persons or domestic abuse etc.)
- If an allegation of forced marriage is made or a child/young person under 18 years old discloses that they are ‘at risk’ then the designated safeguarding officer must make a referral to Children’s Services and use existing national and local protocols for multi-agency liaison with police and children’s social care. (see Role of Children’s Services)
- Refer to the local police child protection unit if there is any suspicion that a crime has been, or may be, committed.
- Liaise with the police if there concerns about the safety of the student, the students siblings or any other individuals.
- Refer the student, with their consent, to local and national support groups and counselling services with a history of dealing with cases of forced marriage if in doubt, consider seeking advice from the Forced Marriage Unit.
- Consider whether a communication specialist is needed if the student is deaf, visually impaired or has learning disabilities.
- There are legal remedies that social services can take to prevent young people being taken overseas. These include making the student a ward of court or surrendering their passport or passports (if they are a dual national).
What should you not do?
- Treat such allegations merely as information requiring no action and send the student back to the family home
- Ignore what the student has told you or dismiss out of hand the need for immediate protection
- Decide that it is not your responsibility to follow-up the allegation
- Approach the student’s family or those with influence within the community, as this will alert them to your concerns and may place the student in danger
- Contact the family in advance of any enquiries by the police, the Forced Marriage Unit, adult or children’s social care, either by telephone or letter
- Share information outside information sharing protocols without the express consent of the student
- Attempt to be a mediator.
What to do when a student stops attending school?
Local authorities in England have a duty to identify all children not receiving a suitable education. This relates to children of compulsory school age who are not on a school roll and who are not receiving a suitable education otherwise than being at school (this could involve, for example, home education, private education, alternative provision).
Details of the steps local authorities need to take to meet this duty are described in “Statutory Guidance for local authorities in England to identify children not receiving a suitable education”.
There may be occasions when a student does not return to education after a holiday or they may stop attending school during term time. In these situations, staff may have a suspicion that forced marriage is an issue. If a child does not return to education, schools must enter the name of the child on the Lost Pupil Database.
If a teacher or other member of staff suspects that a student has been removed from, or prevented from, attending education as a result of forced marriage, a referral must be made to Children’s Services.
Role of health professionals
Women trapped in forced marriage often experience, violence, rape, forced pregnancy, and forced childbearing. Many girls and young women are removed from education early. Some may be unable to leave the household unescorted – living virtually under house arrest. Forced marriage impact men and women very differently. This guidance is relevant for both male and female victims, however because 80% of those seeking help concerning forced marriage are women the consequences are different than those for men. Men can also be victims of forced marriage and should be given the same assistance and respect when they seek help. Men may find it more difficult to admit to being forced into marriage and therefore, may be less likely to seek help. Practitioners should be aware of additional factors which can contribute to males becoming victims of forced marriage. This can be; a consequence of a relationship which is deemed to be inappropriate, if they are gay bisexual or transgender, have a disability or if they have assisted a victim.
Many women are the main carers at home and the abuse they suffer can have a devastating impact on their children. There are many ways that a woman can come to attention of health services including:
- Accident & Emergency Departments, rape crisis centres or genito-urinary clinics with injuries consistent of rape or other forms of violence
- Dental surgeries with facial injuries consistent with domestic abuse,
- Mental health services, counselling services, school nurses, health visitors, A&E, GP with depression and self-harming behaviour (including anorexia, cutting, substance misuse or attempted suicide) as a result of Forced Marriage
- Family planning clinics and GP for advice on contraception or termination
- Maternity services if pregnant
Health services can create an “open” and supportive environment by:
- Displaying relevant information e.g. National Domestic Violence Helpline, NSPCC, Child Line and appropriate black and minority ethnic women’s groups (see appendix: useful contacts)
- Circulating and displaying copies of the Forced Marriage Unit’s leaflet on forced marriage
- Educating health professionals on issue of forced marriage.
Some health professionals have more opportunities, or are able to create opportunities, to see a woman on their own. If there are concerns that forced marriage is an issue, the health professional might ask questions about family life and whether the woman faces restrictions at home.
There are all sorts of questions a health professional could ask to establish whether a woman is trapped in a forced marriage which include:
- How are things at home?
- Do you get out much?
- Can you choose what you want to do and when you want to do it such as
seeing friends, working or maybe studying?
- Do you have friends and family locally who can provide support?
- Is your family supportive?
If a health professional does elicit information that suggests a young person is facing a forced marriage, they should use careful questioning to establish the full facts and decide on the level of response required. Health professionals should be mindful if a disclosure is made that this may be the one and only chance of helping the patient.
However, where the level of concern, or the imminence of the marriage, is such that it becomes a child safeguarding issue, the appropriate procedures must be followed. This includes referral to Children’s Services and the Police.
Within each organisation there should be a named person with a lead safeguarding role or lead for supporting staff around forced marriage, whose responsibility is to ensure that cases of forced marriage are managed, monitored and recorded properly. They can also support contact with the Forced Marriage Unit (a joint Home Office/Foreign and Commonwealth Office Unit) and other related agencies.
Accurate records must be maintained at all times documenting what has been said and done.