Plans to crack down on forced marriage will be announced by Home Secretary Theresa May this week, amid speculation that it is to be made a criminal offence.

The government is already committed to criminalising breaches of civil Forced Marriage Protection Orders.

But the Home Office has been consulting on whether forcing someone to marry should be made an offence in its own right in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The consultation, which closed at the end of March, was launched at the request of Prime Minister David Cameron, who said last year that forced marriage was "little more than slavery" and "completely wrong".

"To force someone into marriage is completely wrong and I strongly believe this is a problem we should not shy away from addressing because of some cultural concerns."

There are concerns that criminalising forced marriage altogether could deter victims from coming forward.

But Mr Cameron said in October he was asking Mrs May to consult on the idea and ways to "make sure that such a step would not prevent or hinder (victims) from reporting what has happened to them".

Mrs May is to make an announcement on forced marriages on Friday, but reports that the Government was proceeding with making it a criminal offence were not confirmed by Downing Street or the Home Office.

A Home Office spokesman said: "Forced marriage is an appalling form of abuse and we are determined tackle it.

"That's why we have held a consultation on making it a criminal offence and will criminalise the breach of Forced Marriage Protection Orders.

"That consultation closed on March 30 and we will analyse the responses before announcing the way forward."

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  • The Solar Impulse, HB-SIA experimental aircraft approaches to make a night landing at Rabat airport , Morocco , Tuesday, June 5, 2012. The experimental solar-powered airplane arrived in Madrid on May 25, 2012 from Payerne, Switzerland, and now arrives at Rabat, Morocco on its first transcontinental trip. The mission is described as the final dress rehearsal for a round-the-world flight with a new and improved aircraft in 2014. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)

  • Venus passes in front of the sun, as visible from Hong Kong, Wednesday, June 6, 2012. From the U.S. to South Korea, people around the world turned their attention to the daytime sky on Tuesday and early Wednesday in Asia to make sure they caught the once-in-a-lifetime sight of the transit of Venus.(Photo credit: AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

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  • A Kashmiri woman collects lotus roots to feed cattle on Dal Lake in Srinagar on June 6,2012. Thousands of holiday goers have arrived in Kashmir valley to enjoy the beauty of its landscapes, as violence ebbs in the Muslim-majority state wracked by insurgency since 1989. An armed insurgency against Indian rule in Kashmir has claimed 47,000 lives since 1989 with separatists putting the toll twice as high. (Photo credit: TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Planet Venus, pictured as a black dot (at L), is seen in transit across the Sun in New Delhi on June 6, 2012. Sky-gazers around the world held up their telescopes and viewing glasses to watch a once-in-a-lifetime event as Venus slid across the Sun. (Photo credit: MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/GettyImages)

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  • US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (C) inspects Indian troops during a welcoming ceremony at the Ministry of Defense on June 6, 2012 in New Delhi, India. Panetta is on a nine day visit to Asia seeking to build strategic ties across the region. (Photo credit: Jim Watson - Pool/Getty Images)

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  • Afghan demonstrators burn an Iranian flag in front of the Iranian embassy in Kabul on June 6, 2012. Protesters burned an Iranian flag in protest to the hanging of some Afghans in Iran. Iran has one of the highest numbers of executions each year, with adultery, murder, drug trafficking and other major crimes all punishable by death. (Photo credit: SHAH MARAI/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Palestinians inspect the damage to a chicken farm in Rafah town in the southern Gaza Strip on June 6, 2012, following an Israeli air strike, in which two Palestinians were wounded in two strikes according to medical sources. (Photo credit: SAID KHATIB/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Skywatchers, who gathered to witness the transit of Planet Venus, look through protective eyewear in a futile wait for a break in the clouds during overcast skies in Mumbai on June 6, 2012. Sky-gazers around the world held up their telescopes and viewing glasses to watch a once-in-a-lifetime event as Venus slid across the Sun. (Photo credit: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/GettyImages)