Welcome to the Official Website of the National Commission on Forced Marriage
“A forced marriage is where one or both people do not (or in cases of people with learning disabilities, cannot) consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used”
In 2003, Shafilea Ahmed, a 17-year-old British girl from Warrington, Cheshire, was taken to Pakistan on holiday with her family. When she arrived, her parents tried to force her in to a marriage. It is reported that despite pressure from her family, Shafilea did not consent to the marriage. Upon returning to the UK, she suffered continued pressure and violence from her family to enter in to a marriage of their choice. The situation became so unbearable that she even attempted suicide. Later that year her teachers reported her missing after a weeks absence from school.
In 2004, Shafilea’s decomposed body was discovered 70 miles from her home town.
Nearly 8 years later in 2012, Shafilea’s parents were found guilty of her murder and sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in prison.
Shafilea’s horrific case was the tip of the iceberg and revealed severe flaws not only in the gaps in support for victims of forced marriage in the UK but the lack of understanding amongst frontline professionals about what Forced Marriage and Honour Based Violence is and how to manage cases effectively.
The Forced Marriage Unit, a joint Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office Unit, provided advice and assistance in 1302 cases related to a possible forced marriage in 2013. However, statistics do not provide a clear picture of how many children, women and men in the UK, have already been forced in to a marriage or face the threat of a forced marriage. Like Shafilea, victims often face abuse and violence on a daily basis often from family members.
In 2008, the Forced Marriage (Civil) Protection Act came in to force and the practice was criminalised in the UK in June 2014. You can read more about the law on our ‘Important Links’ page.
The National Commission on Forced Marriage is an independent body chaired by Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss. It was established in 2013 to consider the practice of forced marriage perpetrated by any ethnic, cultural and religious community living in the UK, in order to influence the eventual eradication of this practice. On this website, you can read more about the Commission’s work, as well as details on who we are.