In an exclusive blog for the Good Morning Britain website, Home Secretary Theresa May describes forced marriages as "cruel and unacceptable" as a new law comes into force.
Your wedding day should be the happiest day of your life, when you can look forward to a new life with the person you love.
But for victims of forced marriage, their wedding signals the end of their youth and freedom. They are robbed of the right to choose their future and all too often women will suffer physical, emotional, financial and sexual abuse at the hands of their new husband.
I am proud to say that the UK is a world-leader in the fight to stamp out this extremely harmful practice.
Our Forced Marriage Unit runs a hotline providing direct help to victims and also trains frontline professionals and communities leaders to ensure that they know how to spot the signs and handle suspected cases. Overseas, the unit helps to rescue victims and get them back home to the UK.
And from today, forced marriage is a crime in England and Wales, with a maximum jail term of seven years.
We want to send a clear message that forced marriage is cruel and unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
The individual stories are heart-rending. In one tragic recent case, a 17 year woman was taken to Turkey – she thought she was going on holiday, but instead she was forced to marry.
She was a bright, ambitious young woman who planned to go to university to study law. But suddenly her life had become a total nightmare. The marriage was horrifying, with sexual, mental and physical abuse.
She was forced to cook and clean for her new husband, and wasn’t allowed to have meals with the family but forced to eat their scraps and leftovers. She fell pregnant and gave birth to a son but still the abuse did not stop.
Finally, she gathered the courage to tell her family what was happening to her, and with help from the charity Freedom, she came back to London. She still has scars that remind her of what her ex-husband did.
This is just one case. The scale of the problem is staggering. Last year, the Forced Marriage Unit helped over a thousand people, but these cases are just the tip of the iceberg. This is a hidden crime, with victims often too afraid to speak out against the people who are forcing them to sign their lives away.
That’s over a thousand people being held captive in their homes, treated like domestic and sexual slaves and assaulted by their partners with no hope of getting out.
Every single case is a tragedy and forced marriage must stop. I am determined that the new legislation will help to give people confidence, safety and the freedom to choose.