Leading article: An outrageous practice that the law must address

Tuesday 11 October 2011 00:00 BST
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Forced marriage is an iniquitous practice and proposals that it be made a criminal offence deserve unqualified support.

As things stand, the practice can only be prosecuted under laws on kidnap, assault or rape. But the failure to recognise it as a crime in its own right leaves the law blind to the cultural and family dynamics which can render victims powerless to defend themselves.

Some 1,700 people contacted the Forced Marriage Unit last year. But prosecutions remain vanishingly rare, and campaigners say the vast majority of incidents go unrecorded.

The Prime Minister yesterday described forced marriage as "little more than slavery". He is right. The law must send the strongest possible signal that such practices are abusive and will not be tolerated.

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