1. ITV Report

Forced marriage to be criminal offence

A campaigners' anti forced marriage poster Photo: ITV Central

The government has announced that forcing someone to marry will become a criminal offence in England and Wales.

The West Midlands has the worst rate of forced marriages outside of London with 16.7% of all cases reported this year.

The decision to make forced marriage an offence follows a 12 week consultation which considered views from the public, victims, charities and frontline agencies.

A new range of measures focusing on increasing protection and support for victims as well as prevention will also accompany the new law.

However the new law has surfaced amongst fears that victims of forced marriage will be too afraid to seek help for fear of being prosecuted themselves.

But Prime Minister David Cameron insists measures have been put in place to avoid this from occurring.

"Forced marriage is abhorrent and is little more than slavery.

"To force anyone into marriage against their will is simply wrong and that is why we have taken decisive action to make it illegal.

"I have listened to concerns that criminalisation could force this most distressing issue underground.

"That is why we have a new comprehensive package to identify possible victims, support those who have suffered first hand and, indeed, prevent criminality wherever possible."

– Prime Minister David Cameron

The cross-departmental Forced Marriage Unit runs a helpline providing confidential support and advice to victims and professionals as well as raising awareness on the issue.

The unit has provided advice or support to almost 600 cases this year alone, 14% of calls involved victims below 15 years-of-age.

The highest percentage of victims, with 46%, were of Pakistani origin

Meanwhile the UK's embassies and high commissions work to provide help to British victims facing forced marriage overseas and help them return home to the UK.