My Marriage My Choice

The Project

Background to the study

rings and lock

Forced marriage is defined as a marriage without the consent of one or both parties and where duress is a factor (UK Government Forced Marriage Unit). In a forced marriage one or both spouses do not, or cannot, due to lacking capacity, consent to the marriage.

Research and practice evidence demonstrates that people with learning disabilities are being forced to marry and that the consequences include physical and sexual assault, emotional harm and abandonment. The same research tells us that Safeguarding Adults Boards are struggling to know how to respond to the issue. This study seeks to establish who is at risk and why.

Permission has been given to undertake the first ever analysis of data held by the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) on cases involving people with learning disabilities. Further data will be gathered from people with learning disabilities; family members; community/faith leaders and practitioners to gain multiple perspectives on this complex issue.

Findings will be used to produce a range of outputs which will contribute to the reduction of forced marriage of people with learning disabilities by raising awareness amongst key stakeholders and improved safeguarding practices.

Aims and objectives of the study


To increase understanding and awareness of forced marriage of people with learning disabilities and develop resources to support effective adult safeguarding practice in this area.


  • To identify the individual and cultural characteristics of people with a learning disability who are at risk of or have been subjected to forced marriage
  • To generate knowledge about how key stakeholders, including people with learning disabilities, their families, community/faith leaders and professionals, understand issues of consent, capacity and forced marriage
  • To develop resources for use by lay and professional stakeholders to raise awareness of the forced marriage of people with learning disabilities and support more effective safeguarding interventions when necessary. Outputs will be produced which:
    1. explain forced marriage from the perspective of people with learning disabilities, family members and community/faith leaders through the use of detailed case studies thus improving understanding of social care staff
    2. raise awareness of family members and community/faith leaders about the consequences of forced marriage
    3. provide a framework for adult social care staff to support recognition of forced marriage and managing the complexities involved, including a tool for assessing capacity to consent to marriage
    4. provide advice to adults with learning disabilities on recognising forced marriage and where to get help (in accessible format)
  • To disseminate the findings, including practice-related outputs, to service users, frontline practitioners, managers and policy-makers, and academic audiences

Project team members

  • Rachael Clawson (Principal Investigator)1
  • Rachel Fyson (Co-investigator)1
  • Michelle McCarthy (Co-investigator)2
  • Shefali Khan (Co-investigator)3
  • Deborah Kitson (Co-investigator)4
  • Anne Patterson (Research Fellow)1


  1. University of Nottingham
  2. University of Kent
  3. Respond
  4. Ann Craft Trust


My Marriage My Choice

University of Nottingham
Law and Social Sciences Building
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD