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Luton Borough Council

Forced marriage: information for practitioners


A forced marriage is one in which one or both spouses do not or cannot (ie if they have learning or physical disabilities or are underage) consent to the marriage and duress is involved.

Duress can include physical, psychological, financial, sexual and emotional pressure. Men and women can be forced into marriage.

There is a clear distinction between forced marriage and arranged marriage. In arranged marriages, the families of both spouses take a leading role in arranging the marriage but the choice whether or not to accept the arrangement remains with the respective spouses. In forced marriage, one or both spouses do not or cannot consent to the marriage and duress is involved.

The one chance rule

All practitioners working with victims of forced marriage and honour-based violence need to be aware of the “one chance” rule. That is, they may only have one chance to speak to a potential victim and thus they 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 come across forced marriage cases. If the victim is allowed to walk out of the door without support being offered, that one chance might be wasted.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office have published a series of guidelines which are available below, outlining how agencies should be working to support victims and prevent forced marriage.

An e-learning module on forced marriage is also available at

Free multi agency training on forced marriage is also available for practitioners working in Luton. For further details visit or contact our training team at learning&[email protected] or call 01582 547555 or 547349.

For further information or advice on forced marriage contact the Foreign & Commonwealth Office Forced Marriage Unit : 0207 008 0151 (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm) or email [email protected]

For out of hours emergencies, please telephone: 0207 008 1500 and ask to speak to the Global Response Centre.

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