Forced Marriage Unit statistics 2022 (2024)

Forced Marriage Unit statistics 2022 (1)

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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/forced-marriage-unit-statistics-2022/forced-marriage-unit-statistics-2022

1. Key points

In 2022, the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) gave advice and support in 302 cases related to a possible forced marriage and/or possible female genital mutilation (FGM)[footnote 1]. This figure includes contact that was made to the FMU through its public helpline or by email in relation to a new case, and comprises 297 cases of forced marriage and 5 of FGM. The unit also responded to 545 general enquiries. All percentages and analysis throughout this document relate to the total figure of 302.

A case in which advice and support is given (‘advice and support cases’) is one where the FMU is provided with details of a specific individual at risk of, or affected by, forced marriage (or, where there is an overseas angle, FGM), and actively provides advice and support for as long as is required.

A general enquiry is one where the FMU may be asked to provide general advice and/or signposting to other sources of guidance or information. FMU began to record these in 2018, separate to the advice and support cases which comprised the annual published statistics.

Of the cases in which the FMU provided advice or support in 2022:

  • 88 cases (29%) involved victims aged 17 years and under
  • 119 cases (39%) involved victims aged 18 to 25
  • 62 cases (19%) involved victims with mental capacity concerns
  • 235 cases (78%) involved female victims, and 67 cases (22%) involved male victims

Forced marriage is not a problem specific to one country, religion or culture.

In recent years, the FMU has handled cases relating to countries across 6 continents.

In 2022, the FMU handled cases relating to 25 ‘focus countries’, excluding the UK. The ‘focus country’ is the country to which the forced marriage risk relates. This could be the country where the forced marriage (or FGM) is due to take place, the country where it has taken place, and/or the country that the spouse is currently residing in. The ‘focus countries’ (other than the UK) with the highest number of cases in 2022 were:

  • Pakistan 147 cases (49%)
  • Bangladesh 41 cases (14%)
  • India 20 cases (7%)
  • Afghanistan 9 cases (3%)
  • Iraq 7 cases (2%)
  • Somalia[footnote 2] 5 cases (2%)

The majority (78%) of victims were in the UK at the time the case was referred to the FMU.

In 2022, 8 cases had no overseas element, with the potential or actual forced marriage taking place entirely within the UK. Although this was a decrease from 11 cases in 2021, it continues to highlight that forced marriages can and do take place in the UK.

This document is accompanied by a data sheet which contains the figures quoted in this report. Categories containing data relating to fewer than 5 cases have been recorded as “[x]” to preserve the anonymity of victims.

These statistics represent only the cases that have been reported to the FMU, and where the FMU has actively given advice or support. Forced marriage is a hidden crime, and these figures will not reflect the full scale of the abuse. Separately, the Home Office has commissioned the University of Birmingham to conduct a feasibility study on how accurate estimations of the prevalence of forced marriage and FGM in England and Wales might be made.

The FMU has for some years run training workshops for police officers on how to support victims of forced marriage. In 2020 these moved online, and began to be complemented by new workshops for social workers. The unit also conducts bespoke presentations to local authorities, non-governmental organisations and other organisations. The numbers of people in receipt of this training and awareness raising activity has risen in recent years: in 2022, the FMU delivered training to 1,537 UK professionals, representing an increase of 52% compared with 2021. As well as the dedicated half-day training workshops for social care staff and police officers, in 2022 the unit delivered ad hoc training on request to groups including police officers, social workers, health professionals, local authorities, Border Force staff and community groups. In addition, in 2022, 5,209 people from a wide range of professions took the FMU’s “Awareness of Forced Marriage” free online course.

2. Overview

A forced marriage is one in which a person uses violence, threats or another form of coercion to cause someone else to enter into a marriage, and believes (or ought reasonably to believe) that their actions may cause that other person to enter into the marriage without free and full consent.

Coercion may include emotional pressure, physical force (or the threat of it), and financial pressure. It is a criminal offence to force someone into a marriage or to deceive them into travelling overseas for this purpose[footnote 3].

It is also a forced marriage to do anything to cause an adult who lacks the relevant mental capacity to enter into a marriage, even if a form of coercion is not used. Since the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 came into force on 27 February 2023, that same provision has applied to minors. As well as raising the minimum age of marriage and civil partnership to 18 in all circ*mstances in England and Wales, that legislation expanded the ambit of the criminal offence of forced marriage in England and Wales such that, it is now an offence to carry out any conduct for the purpose of causing a child to marry before their eighteenth birthday, even if violence, threats or any other form of coercion are not used. This change in the law had not been brought into force, and therefore did not apply, during the period covered by these statistics.

In contrast to a forced marriage, when it comes to the marriage of an adult, in an arranged marriage both parties have consented to the union but can still refuse to marry if they choose to. This distinction between forced and arranged marriages used to apply (and, during the period covered by these statistics, it still did) to the marriage of a child too, but since 27 February 2023 it no longer does – what previously would have been considered an arranged marriage of a child is now deemed a forced marriage.

The FMU is a joint Home Office and Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) unit. It was established in 2005 to lead on the Government’s forced marriage policy, outreach and casework. The unit operates both inside the UK, where support is provided to any individual, and overseas, where consular assistance is provided to British nationals, including dual nationals. The unit also leads on consular casework relating to British national victims of FGM who are overseas.

The FMU operates a helpline from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (+44 (0) 20 7008 0151). Outside of these hours, consular assistance can be requested 24/7 by contacting the nearest overseas British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate, or by calling 020 7008 5000 in the UK. The FMU typically receives information about a forced marriage from either the person at risk, from a friend or a relative, or from professionals within agencies charged with responsibility for safeguarding children and adults with care and support needs.

This publication provides information on the number of cases reported to the FMU via its public helpline and email inbox from 1 January 2022 to 31 December 2022, where advice and support have been provided. The FMU logs all relevant calls and emails received to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the records. The main categories of data that are captured by the FMU include (if volunteered, as some callers may wish to remain anonymous):

  • details of the caller/source of information
  • focus country
  • UK region where the victim/potential victim lives
  • sex, age, location and nationality of the person at risk
  • disability – be it physical, learning or both, and/or any condition that may affect mental capacity
  • sexual orientation (only if volunteered)

The FMU does not record data on religion; no major faith in the UK advocates forced marriage. Freely given consent is a prerequisite of Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh marriages.

The FMU privacy notice is available at ‘FCDO and Home Office privacy notice: Forced Marriage Unit (FMU)’.

Further information about forced marriage and the work of the FMU is available at ‘Forced marriage’, by emailing fmu@fcdo.gov.uk or by writing to:

Forced Marriage Unit
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
Consular Directorate
King Charles Street
London
SW1A 2AH
+44 (0)20 7008 0151

3. Forced Marriage Unit statistics

In 2022, the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) gave advice or support in 302 cases related to a possible forced marriage or possible female genital mutilation (FGM). This does not include 545 general enquiries the unit received, which did not relate to a specific case or simply required signposting to relevant advice and resulted in no further action by the FMU.

The 302 cases in 2022 represents a 10% decrease on the number of cases (337) received in 2021.

Of the cases in which the FMU provided advice or support in 2022:

  • 28 cases related to a ‘reluctant sponsor’[footnote 4]
  • 5 cases related only to FGM where the victim or potential victim was overseas
  • 62 cases related to mental capacity concerns

Owing to changes in recording practices, the data in 2020 is not directly comparable with those in previous years, and the data in 2021 and 2022 are not directly comparable either with the data in 2020 or with those in the years prior to it.

Table 1: Number of cases in which the Forced Marriage Unit gave advice or support, 2011 to 2022

Year Number
2011 1,468
2012 1,485
2013 1,302
2014 1,267
2015 1,220
2016 1,428
2017 1,196
2018 1,507
2019 1,355
2020 759
2021 337
2022 302

Source: Forced Marriage Unit; Home Office and Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

4. Sources of referrals

Every year the Forced Marriage Unit receives referrals from a variety of sources. The bulk of these come from professionals charged with safeguarding responsibilities, such as the police, social services and education officials. In 2022, 72 cases (24% of referrals) were made by social services, 46 cases (15%) by the police, and 28 cases (9%) by education officials.

In 49 cases (16%) the referral was made by the Home Office (generally borders and immigration) - these were mostly related to reluctant sponsor cases.

There were 37 cases (12%) which were made by the victims seeking support and guidance. The remaining 13% of cases were referred by friends, partners, family members, colleagues and anonymous callers.

Table 2 and Figure 1 below show the monthly breakdown of cases referred to the FMU.

Table 2: Number of cases in which the Forced Marriage Unit gave advice or support, by month, 2022

Month Numbers Percentages[footnote 5]
January 25 8%
February 26 9%
March 44 15%
April 21 7%
May 32 11%
June 23 8%
July 25 8%
August 20 7%
September 22 7%
October 11 4%
November 33 11%
December 20 7%
Total 302

Source: Forced Marriage Unit; Home Office and Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

Figure 1: Number of cases in which the Forced Marriage Unit gave advice and support, by month, in 2022

Forced Marriage Unit statistics 2022 (2)

Source: Forced Marriage Unit; Home Office and Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

The following sections provide further information about the cases that the FMU handled in 2022.

5. Sex of victims

In 2022, 235 cases (78%) involved female victims and 67 cases (22%) involved male victims. This highlights that forced marriage is a crime which disproportionately affects women, but that men can also be victims. Men were particularly represented in cases where the victim has mental capacity concerns.

6. Age of victims

In 2022, 14% of the cases involved victims who were known to be aged 15 and under, 16% were known to be aged 16 or 17 years old and 26% were known to be aged 18 to 21. Cases concerning young children often involve the ‘promise’ of a future marriage (betrothal), or the younger sibling of someone at a direct risk, rather than an imminent marriage. The case numbers also include FGM, which often involves child victims.

In 2022, 15% of cases involved victims who were known to be aged 26 to 30 and 12% who were known to be aged 31 and over. In 4% of the cases the age of the person was unknown.

Table 3: Number of cases in which the Forced Marriage Unit gave advice or support, by age, 2022

Age Numbers Percentages
15 and under 41 14%
16 to 17 47 16%
18 to 21 79 26%
22 to 25 40 13%
26 to 30 46 15%
31 to 40 24 8%
41 and over 13 4%
Unknown 12 4%
Total 302

Source: Forced Marriage Unit; Home Office and Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

7. Nationality of victims

In 2022, 74% of victims (224 cases) were British nationals, including dual nationals, and 19% of victims (56 cases) were non-British nationals. The nationality of the individual was unknown in 7% of cases (22 cases).

Table 4: Number of cases in which the Forced Marriage Unit gave advice or support, by nationality, 2022

Numbers Percentages
British national (including dual national) 224 74%
Non-British national 56 19%
Unknown 22 7%
Total number of cases 302

Source: Forced Marriage Unit; Home Office and Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

8. UK regions where victims live

As in recent years, in 2022 the UK regions associated with the greatest number of cases were London, West Midlands and the North West, together accounting for 53% of referrals (55% in 2021). The proportions of referrals from other regions remained broadly similar to previous years.

Table 5: Number of cases in which the Forced Marriage Unit gave advice or support, by region, 2022

UK Region Number of cases Percentage of cases
London 61 20%
West Midlands 51 17%
North West 49 16%
Yorkshire & The Humber 39 13%
South East 20 7%
East 19 6%
East Midlands 15 5%
South West 9 4%
North East 8 3%
Wales 6 2%
Scotland [x] [x]
Northern Ireland [x] [x]
Unknown 22 7%
Total 302

Source: Forced Marriage Unit; Home Office and Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

9. Focus country overview

The ‘focus country’ is the country to which the risk of forced marriage relates. This could be the country where the forced marriage is due to take place, the country where it has taken place, and/or the country in which the spouse is currently residing.

In 2022, the FMU handled cases relating to the UK and 25 other ‘focus countries’.

Table 6: Number of cases in which the Forced Marriage Unit gave advice or support, by focus country, 2022

Focus Country Numbers Percentages
Pakistan 147 49%
Bangladesh 41 14%
India 20 7%
Afghanistan 9 3%
United Kingdom 8 3%
Iraq 7 2%
Somalia 5 2%
Other (19 countries) 37 13%
Unknown 28 9%
Total 302

Source: Forced Marriage Unit; Home Office and Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

10. Focus countries breakdown

10.1 Pakistan

Pakistan is routinely the focus country with the largest number of cases of forced marriages reported to the FMU.[footnote 6]

There were 147 cases (49%) linked to Pakistan as the focus country in 2022. In 72% of these cases the victim was in the UK and the focus was on preventing the marriage before it was due to take place, or preventing the victim from being forced to sponsor a spousal visa. In 27% of cases, victims were overseas when the referral was made. In such cases, support is usually delivered through a combination of consular staff in-country and FMU staff in the UK[footnote 7].

Over one-quarter (27%) of cases linked to Pakistan involved victims who were known to be aged 17 and under, and 26% were known to be aged 18 to 21. Around three-quarters (76%) of victims were female.

The most common UK regions linked to cases involving Pakistan were the North West, West Midlands and London, together accounting for 48% of these cases.

10.2 Bangladesh

Bangladesh was linked to 41 cases (14%) in 2022. 85% of the referrals were made when the victims were known to be in the UK. 73% of the victims helped were female and 27% were male.

Of these, 27% of cases linked to Bangladesh (11 cases) involved victims who were known to be aged 17 and under, and 37% were known to be aged 18 to 21 (15 cases).

London was the region involving the largest number of cases linked to Bangladesh, with 16 referrals to the FMU (39%).

10.3 India

India was linked to 20 cases (7%) in 2022 and of these 75% were female and 25% male. 18 of the victims (90%) were in the UK when the referral was made.

10.4 UK

In 2022, 8 cases (11 in 2021) had no overseas element, with the potential or actual forced marriage taking place entirely within the UK. This continues to highlight that forced marriages do take place in the UK. All 8 victims were female.

11. Sexual orientation of victims

In 2022, 5 cases involved victims who voluntarily identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). The figure for 2021 was 6 cases.

These statistics are based on the information that is volunteered to the unit; victims were not asked to disclose their sexual orientation.

12. Victims with mental capacity concerns

In 2022, 62 cases (21%) involved victims whose mental capacity to consent to marriage was in doubt[footnote 8]. The sex and age breakdown of those victims, as well as the focus countries, are shown in Table 7.

Victims with mental capacity concerns were more likely to be male (52%) and older (47% of victims were known to be aged 26 and over) than in cases on average.

Table 7: Number of cases involving a victim with mental capacity concerns in which the Forced Marriage Unit gave advice or support, 2022

Sex Numbers Percentages
Male 32 52%
Female 30 48%
Age Range
15 and under [x] -
16 to 17 [x] -
18 to 21 10 16%
22 to 25 10 26%
26 to 30 18 29%
31 to 40 6 10%
41 and over 5 8%
Unknown [x] 2%
Focus Country
Pakistan 31 50%
Bangladesh 12 19%
United Kingdom [x] -
Other (4 countries) [x] -
Unknown 11 21%
UK Region
West Midlands 16 26%
North West 11 18%
London 12 19%
Yorkshire & The Humber 7 11%
East [x] -
South East [x] -
East Midlands [x] -
Wales [x] -
Scotland [x] -
Unknown [x] -
Total number of cases involving someone with mental capacity concerns 62

Source: Forced Marriage Unit; Home Office and Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

13. Status of the marriage

The status of the marriage is recorded under 4 categories. These categories are:

  • ‘UK Pre’ (this means that the victim is in the UK and the marriage is yet to take place; the marriage could be in the UK or overseas)
  • ‘UK Post’ (the victim is in the UK and the marriage has taken place)[footnote 9]
  • ‘Overseas Pre’ (the victim is overseas, and the marriage is yet to take place)
  • ‘Overseas Post’ (the victim is overseas, and the marriage has taken place)

The risks for the victims are different at each point. When a victim is overseas, the need for support is often more urgent because it can mean that the wedding is imminent. The security and legal situation in certain countries or regions within countries also affects the level of consular support which the FMU is able to offer.

Table 8: Proportion of cases by marriage status in which the Forced Marriage Unit gave advice or support, 2011 to 2022

Marriage Status 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
UK Pre 42% 37% 42% 46% 46% 45% 49% 60% 56% 51% 39% 49%
UK Post 40% 33% 32% 28% 30% 28% 28% 23% 27% 28% 31% 28%
UK Unknown 0% 1% 1% 1% 1% 4% 2% 1% 2% 1% 2% 1%
Overseas Pre 8% 8% 11% 10% 9% 13% 13% 9% 8% 9% 21% 13%
Overseas Post 2% 3% 5% 6% 3% 3% 3% 3% 4% 6% 3% 4%
Overseas Unknown 4% 3% 3% 3% 5% 5% 3% 2% 3% 3% 4% 4%
Unknown 3% 15% 6% 5% 4% 3% 2% 2% 1% 1% 0% 0%

Source: Forced Marriage Unit; Home Office and Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

In general, the earlier the FMU is contacted, the greater the range of options available to help support the victim and mitigate the risk of a forced marriage taking place.

14. Repatriations

In 2022, the FMU provided practical help or advice to support the repatriations[footnote 10] of 9 individuals. Repatriation figures are not fully representative of the assistance provided to forced marriage victims overseas.

For example, the figures do not include cases where:

  • a Forced Marriage Protection Order[footnote 11] was used to facilitate direct repatriation without practical involvement from the FMU
  • victims did not require assistance from the FCDO to return to the UK
  • direct contact with the victim resulted in no further assistance being required by the victim
  • the victim was not a British national and was thus not eligible for consular assistance (safeguarding advice by the FMU was still provided)
  1. The FMU can provide assistance relating to FGM which has affected or may affect UK nationals (including dual nationals) who are overseas.

  2. Including Somaliland.

  3. Forced marriage legislation is devolved, but the FMU provides support and advice regardless of where in the UK the victim/potential victim is based. The relevant legislation can be found at: England and Wales; Scotland; Northern Ireland.

  4. This is when assistance is provided when an unwanted spouse is due to move to the UK.

  5. Percentages in this and some other tables do not sum to 100, owing to rounding.

  6. See the figures and tables spreadsheet for a further data breakdown for Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.

  7. In the remaining cases, the location of the victim was unknown.

  8. Cases involving victims with a suspected or confirmed lack of capacity to consent to marriage under the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

  9. These cases often involve reluctant sponsors.

  10. To come back to the UK or to their country of ordinary residence

  11. Forced Marriage Protection Orders: How can they protect me?.” HM Courts & Tribunals Service leaflet.

Forced Marriage Unit statistics 2022 (2024)
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