12% rise in Childline counselling sessions about forced marriage

Some families may use the long summer break to arrange forced marriages abroad

Schoolgirl sitting on wall

Recent figures from Childline show growing concern over forced marriage among young people.

In 2016/17, Childline has seen:

Girls as young as 13 told Childline counsellors they were frightened about being taken abroad and forced to marry strangers by their families. Many said they experienced emotional abuse from their parents and were afraid of being cut out of their communities if they refused.

What is forced marriage?

A forced marriage is a marriage that takes place without the full and free consent of both parties. It is against the law and offenders can go to prison for up to 7 years.

Force can include:

  • physical force
  • emotional pressure
  • being threatened
  • being a victim of psychological abuse.

Children may have been told they are going on a normal holiday and don't realise they are going to be married to a stranger. Once they're abroad, it can be difficult to get help and stop the marriage.

Call the NSPCC helpline

If you're worried about a child, even if you're unsure, contact our professional counsellors for help, advice and support.

Call us or email help@nspcc.org.uk.

0808 800 5000

Report a concern

Children are afraid to seek help

Many children don't speak up about forced marriage because they're worried about family honour and being isolated by their communities. Others fear their relatives would be punished if they sought help.

"My parents are talking about taking me back to my home country to get married, but I don't want to. They get violent when I don't do what they want. I want to leave home but they'd never agree to it. I just want to live a normal teenage life, but they won't let me."
18-year-old girl who contacted Childline

Peter Wanless

NSPCC Chief Executive Peter Wanless said:
"No child should be forced into marriage and we must be clear that, regardless of cultural expectations, this is a crime and an abuse of human rights. Forcing a child to marry shows a complete lack of regard for their feelings, thoughts or ambitions.

"We understand some may worry about betraying their family but we would urge anyone – including potential victims – to speak up before it is too late. Help us break the cycle and speak up, so that we can step in and stop a child being bound into something that they would never ask for."

If you're worried about a child

We're urging any adult who's worried about a child being forced into marriage to contact the NSPCC helpline.

Any child who's concerned can contact Childline for support.

Report a concern


  1. There were 205 counselling sessions on forced marriage in 2016/17, numbers from previous years are as follows:

    2016-17: 205 counselling sessions

    2015-16: 183 counselling sessions

    2014-15: 202 counselling sessions

    2013-14: 141 counselling sessions

    2012-13: 83 counselling sessions

    2011-12: 55 counselling sessions