Escaping forced marriage

Help for the victim of a forced marraige

Imagine you’re an average teenage girl. Maybe you’re worried about getting good A level results or even GCSE grades.

Helping the victim of a forced marriageThen one day you’re forced to travel to your family's homeland. When you get there your family takes your passport and phone.  You’re locked in the home and beaten before being forced to marry a man you’ve never even met. And then you're raped on your wedding night.

What makes all this worse is your family isn't trying to help you – they are the ones who’ve led you here.

Forced marriage unit

Our Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) deals with cases like this every week. It’s run in partnership with the Home Office and is the only government unit in the world dedicated to investigating and helping people escape forced marriages.

People like ‘Farah’ – she was held against her will and almost forced into marriage in Pakistan.  


Despite her family agreeing that she could marry her boyfriend in the UK, they tricked her into travelling to Pakistan telling her that her grandfather was dying.  When she arrived her family confiscated her mobile phone and told her she was going to be married to a stranger in the next few days.

Forced Marriage Unit rescue operationShe was regularly beaten by her own brother for refusing to accept this forced marriage.


But her boyfriend back in the UK suspected something was wrong. He contacted us and his local police to report that Farah was being held against her will.

The FMU and staff in the High Commission in Islamabad contacted Farah on the family phone.  When we spoke to her she said she wasn’t being badly treated or forced into marriage, but we suspected that she was unable to talk freely.  So we left our contact details with her and didn’t close the case.


Later that same day, Farah contacted us from a friend’s house.  She told us the truth and said that during the previous call her brother was in the room writing down the things she should say.  She pleaded with us to rescue her from the nightmare in which she had found herself.

Our rescue operation swung into action and within 48 hours our staff had got her out and brought her back to Islamabad. She had visible physical injuries where her brother and mother had attacked her and was extremely distressed.

Back in the UK the FMU arranged for her boyfriend to send her the money for a flight home. The next day they were reunited at the airport and they are now happily married.

Did you know?

• The FMU deals with around 300 cases a year

• One-third of the victims is under 18

• Fifteen per cent of the victims are men

• We have six full-time staff in London who work with our consular staff around the world

• Whilst most of our cases are in Pakistan and Bangladesh we also deal with cases in unexpected locations like Ireland and Norway

• We can also help people in the UK – you don’t need to be overseas to contact us

• If you are a victim of forced marriage we can try and stop your spouse getting a visa to come to the UK.

If you know of any case of forced marriage, or if you want confidential advice, contact FMU on 020-7008 0151 or email

Read more about how we support British citizens abroad.

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