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The NSPCC has described the criminalisation of forced marriage as "a huge step forward which we hope will deter those plotting against their own children".
The Home Secretary has described forced marriage as "cruel and unacceptable" and said new laws will which come into effect today show the practice "will not be tolerated" in the UK.
In an exclusive blog for Good Morning Britain, Theresa May said laws were needed because the "scale of the problem is staggering".
Forcing someone into a marriage in England and Wales will carry a maximum seven-year jail sentence from today.
The Government hopes the law change, which also criminalises forcing a British national into marriage outside the UK, will protect thousands of potential victims.
Home Secretary Theresa May said she was "proud" of the UK's leading role in combating the crime.
"I am proud to say that the UK is already a world-leader in the fight to stamp out this harmful practice with the Government's Forced Marriage Unit working hard to tackle this terrible practice in the UK and overseas," she said.
A woman who was beaten by her father for fighting against a forced marriage has teamed up with Norfolk Police and a national charity to try to stop other girls going through the same experience.
Rashid, who works as a lawyer for one of the region's police forces, thought she was going on holiday when her family took her to Pakistan at the age of just 17.
She has decided to speak out on the day a new law is brought in making forced marriages illegal in the UK.
Latest ITV News reports
A woman who was beaten by her father for fighting against a forced marriage is determined to stop other girls going through the same thing.