Arranged vs Forced Marriages

An arranged marriage is a marital union planned by the couples families, typically parents, of the couple. Arranged marriages have been known to occur in many cultures and often involve an introduction by a family member, which then leads to the individuals being introduced. The individuals always have a choice, and the marriage will only go ahead with the full consent of both parties.

Forced marriages, on the other hand, are when one or both parties do not give full and free consent to the situation. If under any circumstances a person feels pressured to get married or is expected to get married against their wishes this is defined as a forced marriage.

Why do parents want arranged marriages?

Parents usually arrange marriages when trying to ensure their child's financial security and reinforce social ties within their communities.

Most parents believe it offers protection and reduces the daughter's economic burden on the family due to how costly it is to feed, clothe and educate a girl.


Forced marriage

Forced marriages are illegal in the UK; they are deemed a form of domestic abuse and a serious abuse of human rights. Forcing someone to marry isn't always physical, there can be emotional blackmailing involved but it is always against the law. In some cases, people may be taken abroad without knowing that they are to be married and have no way of getting out or getting help and therefore feel its the only option that have.

In 2020, other than the UK, the highest number of cases dealt with by the Forced Marriage Unit were in Pakistan which had 286 cases.

Studies have shown people in arranged marriages have more extended periods of being in love than partners who choose their own mates and arranged marriages end in divorce about 10 times less often than non-arranged marriages.

Force Marriage Offences

Forced marriage is illegal in England and Wales. 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)

Forcing someone to marry can result in a sentence of up to 7 years in prison.


Advantages of Arranged Marriages

Although there are many disadvantages of an arranged marriage there have been advantages which are:-

  • People may match better

  • Higher level of experience of parents

  • Assurance of social status

  • Financial security

  • Cultural similarities of partners

  • Rational rather than emotional decision making

  • Family connections are strengthened

  • Similar ethics


Disadvantage and Negative Effects of Forced Marriages One serious negative effect of a forced marriage is the increased likelihood of domestic abuse and sexual abuse. Anyone forced into a marriage faces an increased risk of rape and sexual abuse as they may not wish to consent or may not be the legal age to consent to a sexual relationship.

Common psychological effects of forced marriages are feelings of depressed mood, irritability, low self-esteem, rage and frustration, sleep problems, difficulty in forming relationships and difficulty trusting others.


Victims may have other mental health problems and display behaviours such as self-harming, self-cutting, or anorexia, as well as drug and alcohol misuse.

If you are being forced into a marriage or know anyone who is and are trying to stop it contact the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) or you need help leaving a marriage you’ve been forced into.


A trained professional will give you free advice on what to do next.

They can also help you:

  • find a safe place to stay

  • stop a UK visa if you’ve been forced to sponsor someone


If you are in fear of your life or of the life of a loved call 999 in an emergency.


Contact the nearest British embassy if you’re already abroad.


Be sure to think over important decisions like an arranged marriage as even though there are pro’s there are also cons.


Forced Marriage Unit

fmu@fcdo.gov.uk

Telephone: 020 7008 0151

From overseas: +44 (0)20 7008 0151

Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Out of hours: 020 7008 5000


A list of other services that can help


Listen To Podcast S3 E10 Arranged Marriages - Do They Still Work?


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