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Forced and child marriages

Everyone has a right to enter into marriage with their full and free consent and to make decisions about their lives

New legislation has recently been introduced in Scotland to provide greater protection to victims of forced marriage. If you are in a forced marriage or under the threat of one, support is available across Scotland to help you make a decision that is right for you. It is everyone’s human right to choose their own partner and if a family member or partner uses either emotional or physical pressure to force marriage upon you, then it is an abuse of your basic rights.

What is a forced marriage?

A marriage is forced when one or both of the couple involved are married without their consent or against their will. This is very different from an arranged marriage, where the family of the couple take a leading role in arranging the marriage and the couple consent to the wedding.

Both men and women can be forced into marriage and many are placed under great emotional duress to comply by their parents or people in their community. They believe wrongly, that by refusing to comply with a forced marriage a victim is bringing 'shame' or 'dishonour' to their family or community. For others, consequences are more extreme, with some experiencing physical assault, being held unlawfully captive, having their passport withheld or being threatened by their partner/potential partner or family.  Forced marriage can impact on school-aged children who may not be mature enough to make decisions for themselves. People with disabilities can also find themselves in a forced marriage and others can be threatened with marriage because of their sexual orientation.

Forced marriage causes emotional distress

Family and relationships are very important to communities but if you’re being threatened or blackmailed into marriage, agreeing to it against your will or are being coerced into a relationship, then it is abuse. If you feel this is happening to you, then you are experiencing the threat of forced marriage.


In 2014 forced marriage became a criminal offence, providing an additional layer of protection to victims from a practice that is a fundamental breach of human rights. It did not replace the 2011 Forced Marriage Act.

Forced Marriage Protection Orders, which can safeguard your rights and make it a criminal offence to breach the Order. Support agencies and local authorities can help you apply for a Protection Order, so you don’t have to go through the court proceedings yourself.

We have trained advisors who can talk through your options if you, a friend or relative is under the threat of forced marriage, or if you are currently in one. Call the freephone Forced Marriage Helpline on 0800 027 1234. It is free, confidential and open 24 hours a day.

More information can be found on the Scottish Government website

Fife Violence Against Women Partnership
Tel: 01592 583690

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