On the day that Scotland outlaws forced marriage, Jasvinder Sanghera, an activist who has campaigned long and hard on the issue, explains why she believes the practice must be tackled internationally.
At 15 I made the life-changing decision to run away from home, when I realised my parents intended to have me marry a man I had never met. The fate that befell my four older sisters - who were all trapped in volatile marriages - was something I simply could not stomach nor contemplate.
My decision to leave home was a tough choice that ultimately led to my mother and father disowning me. It was also a monumental one that utterly transformed my life and shaped my future as a campaigner.
More than two decades have passed since that point, a period in time when forced marriage was considered too taboo and too culturally sensitive to be openly addressed here in the UK.
Over the years there have been positive changes to how this issue is dealt with in our society. We have seen the development of support services and national help lines for individuals directly affected by forced marriage.
We have witnessed the growth of public discourse about this issue within local communities and we have a current Prime Minister willing to raise the issue. Progressive alliances have been forged within civil society, between social services, law enforcement, parliamentarians and community activists. Fruitful partnerships have led to the formation of the Forced Marriage Unit dedicated to assisting victims of forced marriage.
But perhaps the pinnacle of all this was the establishment of the Forced Marriage Act which came into force three years ago today. A statute that is the fruition of years of tireless lobbying by activists and survivors of this harmful practice.
Every month my charity Karma Nirvana receives hundreds of calls, from victims of forced marriage, the majority from girls and women who are at risk of being pressured to marry against their will.
The existence of legislation that aims to protect an individual from being coerced to marry, or a person who has been forced into a marriage, is something that we can rightly be proud of here in the UK. It shows that policymakers are, to an extent, committed to addressing the concerns of those directly affected.
But as laudable as the creation of this act is, there is still a long way to go, and much that can and must be done on this issue, both here in the UK and on the international stage. Particularly in light of the vast number of underage girls coaxed or coerced to marry around the world. As a practice early and forced marriage is steeped in the traditions and cultures of many communities around the world.
Every year one girl in seven marries before the age of 15 in the developing world, according to the latest statistics. For girls of this age or younger, a forced marriage can result in a rapid and brutal transition from childhood to adulthood.
In poorer parts of the world, child brides who are under-15 and expectant mothers are five times more likely to die in childbirth than expectant mothers who are in their twenties.
Some may endure horrific injuries while giving birth as a result of their bodies being too small and underdeveloped to cope with the rigours of delivering a baby.
This summer I became an ambassador Plan UK's 'Because I am a Girl' campaign - a drive to end early and forced marriage that would enable many more girls to stay in education and live healthier lives.
They identified this issue as one of the most formidable obstacles to girls' rights and opportunities in developing regions. In July I travelled with Plan to rural communities in Egypt and the capital Cairo to see firsthand some of the challenges confronting girls and young women forced to marry. It was moving to hear their accounts and to meet religious leaders and local community members who are working together to eradicate the practice.
To see survivors, former perpetrators and local activists coming together to bring about attitudinal change on this issue was heartening. But reform on this issue needs to go beyond these communities.
Early and forced marriage is one of the biggest development challenges we face and needs to be taken up by world leaders. It was welcome therefore to see Commonwealth leaders take the historic first steps to end the practice of early and forced marriage in the association's 54 member countries. Child marriage should be afforded more attention than it currently receives.
Most countries have laws in place to protect girls and women from this practice but not the political will to enforce them. Leaders must take responsibility for this issue and act now.