A new law has come into effect making it a criminal offence to force people into marriage, with those found guilty facing a possible seven years in jail
The law applies both to people being forced into marriage in England and Wales and to UK nationals being forced into marriage abroad.
The crime can involve physical, psychological, emotional, financial and sexual pressure, including being held unlawfully captive, assaulted or raped.
Home secretary Theresa May said: “Forced marriage is a tragedy for each and every victim, and its very nature means that many cases go unreported.”
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Both young girls and boys are being forced into marriages in the UK and abroad, with one 17-year-old girl telling child protection charity NSPCC counsellors:
“My parents want to force me into marrying a man who is a lot older. What makes it worse is that I am in love with someone else. I feel like I have no other choice but to run away. I am living in hell.”
The government’s Forced Marriage Unit gave advice or support related to a possible forced marriage to more than 1,300 people last year.