About 1,302 cases were reported last year by the government’s Forced Marriage Unit. Around 82 percent of victims were female and 18 percent male while 15 percent were under the age of 15.
Home Secretary Theresa May said that the criminalisation – under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 – was a further move by the government to ensure victims are protected by the law and that they have the confidence, safety and the freedom to choose.
The Home Office described a forced marriage as “one in which one or both spouses do not consent to the marriage but are coerced into it” by means including “physical, psychological, financial, sexual and emotional pressure”.
Campaigners and activists across the country are hailing the move as a “huge step forward”.
Freedom Charity founder, Aneeta Prem, said the law sent out a powerful message that this indefensible abuse of human rights will be not be tolerated.
She added that in the most tragic cases, people forced into marriage become domestic slaves by day and sexual slaves by night.
Jasvinder Sanghera, founder of Karma Nirvana charity which supports victims of forced marriages and honour crimes, said she was extremely pleased that the law was finally passed. A victim of forced marriage herself, she said she was 14 when she learned she was promised to a man from the age of eight.
The report also says that the new law will be introduced in Scotland at a later date and Northern Ireland will have its own legislation regarding this offense.