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Forced Marriage: Up To 8,000 Cases In England, Says Home Office

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There are at least 5,000 to 8,000 cases of forced marriage in England and the number of reported cases is rising every year, the Government has said.

The Home Office said the full scale of the problem was not known but published the estimates as it considers making forced marriage a criminal offence.

David Cameron has already announced that the Government will criminalise the breach of Forced Marriage Civil Protection Orders but a newly-launched consultation is asking for views on whether forcing someone to marry should be made an offence in its own right.

Some 339 orders have been recorded since the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 came into force in November 2008, but breaching an order is not a criminal offence.

Home Secretary Theresa May said: "Marriage should be one of the happiest events in a person's life, but, shockingly, thousands of people a year are forced into marriage against their will. It is an appalling form of abuse and perceived cultural sensitivities should not stop us doing more to tackle it."

She went on: "There are a wide range of strongly-held views on making forced marriage a criminal offence and we want to hear from victims and those who work in this field before we come to a decision on the best way to protect vulnerable people.

"But we are determined, working closely with charities and other organisations doing a tremendous amount in this area, to make forced marriage a thing of the past."

The consultation document, published by the Home Office, said Government estimates showed the "national prevalence of reported cases of forced marriage in England was between 5,000 and 8,000".

"While the full scale of the problem is not known, reported cases are rising year on year," the Home Office said.