Forced marriage to be outlawed

David Cameron will make a decision today on whether forced marriage should become a criminal offence

The Prime Minister is expected to make a decision on whether forcing someone to marry will become a crime carrying a maximum five-year prison sentence.

Last year David Cameron said he wanted to see forced marriage made a criminal offence, describing it as little more than slavery and ‘completely wrong’.

But his views were met with concern among those who work with victims of forced marriage who fear it could deter young women from disclosing the coercion suffered at the hands of their families.

Since March, controversy has raged in Whitehall over whether it is possible to define and enforce a new criminal offence which would mean young girls giving evidence against their own parents.

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The Home Office says that the number of forced marriages is increasing with an estimated 5,000 to 8,000 taking place every year.

‘Criminalising forced marriage may be necessary but it’s not sufficient,’ says Marie Staunton, Chief executive of Plan UK. ‘Prevention rather than prosecution will avoid needless suffering, early pregnancy and school drop-outs.’

David Cameron is due to announce the outcome of a Home Office consultation on the matter with home secretary Theresa May tomorrow.

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