Jun 8 2012
David Cameron has said parents who force their children into an unwanted marriage will face "very tough punishments" under a new law.
The Government is making forced marriage a criminal offence, with Mr Cameron claiming the practice was "little short of slavery".
He said victims' lives were ruined by being taken away from the UK, often at a young age, and coerced into a marriage.
After visiting the cross-departmental Forced Marriage Unit, the Prime Minister said the issue had been tolerated as a "cultural practice" for too long and the time was right to take action.
Mr Cameron said: "It is necessary to make this a crime because it is an absolutely abhorrent practice. It is, frankly, little short of slavery. You are taking 15, 16-year-old British citizens, taking them off to another country against their will, marrying them with someone against their will.
"That is a crime and it should be a crime. For too long in this country we have thought 'well, it's a cultural practice and we just have to run with it'. We don't. It's a crime. Listen to the stories of these women and what they've been through and how painful and difficult it was to be rescued and you know this should be a crime and treated as such by this country."
Campaigners have warned that criminalising forced marriage altogether could deter victims from coming forward but the Government has announced an extra £500,000 of funding to help identify and support those affected.
Andrew Flanagan, chief executive of children's charity NSPCC, said the change would need to be monitored to ensure the problem was not pushed further underground.
He said: "The NSPCC has always had concerns that a specific criminal law may risk making this abuse harder to uncover because victims could be afraid of criminalising their family if they speak out. So it's positive that the Government has listened and is looking at wider measures to support young people and ensure they will not be deterred from seeking help."
Freedom, a charity which campaigns against forced marriage and dishonour violence, welcomed the crackdown. Founder Aneeta Prem said: "Criminalising forced marriage will send out a powerful message to people that this practice is unacceptable in England and will be dealt with severely."