The British government will make the practice of forced marriage — common among first-generation South Asian migrants — a criminal offence, with Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday likening it to slavery.
Forced marriage, as distinct from arranged marriage, is where parents and other family members force a life partner upon young Britons.
The victims mostly tend to be girls of Pakistani origin, whose parents take them out of school and whisk them off to Pakistan. Among Indians there have been several instances of forced marriage among Sikhs from Punjab.
"It is an absolutely abhorrent practice; it is frankly little short of slavery," Cameron said. Making forced marriage a criminal offence means the burden of bringing someone to trial will no longer be on individuals, such as petrified victims, or NGOs.
The government has a forced marriage unit. This year alone it has helped nearly 600 cases — 14% of the victims were children below 15.