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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 March 2006, 16:50 GMT
Drive to reduce forced marriages
Forced Marriage Unit poster
New publicity materials are aimed at raising awareness of the issue
A drive to reduce the number of forced marriages of British citizens is due to be unveiled.

The campaign by the government's Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) is backed by actor and writer Meera Syal and former EastEnders star Ameet Chana.

More than 250 cases are reported to the FMU each year, most of which involve links to south Asian countries.

A decision by the government is also expected soon on whether to outlaw forced marriages.

The new drive will include poster and television campaigns and radio and press adverts.

These aim to increase awareness of issues surrounding forced marriages and encourage young people affected by them to seek help.

'Domestic violence'

It will highlight the difference between an arranged marriage and a forced marriage, which is one conducted without the full consent of both parties and under duress.

Home Office minister Baroness Scotland said was not solely an issue facing Asian communities, affecting those with links to the Middle East, western Balkans and Africa as well.

"Forced marriage is a form of domestic violence and a human rights abuse. The victims often face emotional and physical abuse.

Forced marriages are a form of domestic violence that cannot be justified on religious or cultural grounds
Damian Green, Conservative home affairs spokesman

"We are determined to help young people at risk and protect their right to choose whom they want to marry."

Conservative home affairs spokesman Damian Green said they supported the campaign.

"Forced marriages are a form of domestic violence that cannot be justified on religious or cultural grounds," he said.

"We are surprised that the government has launched this welcome campaign before it has published the results of its own consultation on whether forced marriages should be illegal.

"In the meantime the government should do everything possible under existing laws to stop forced marriages."

I stayed in the marriage because I had nowhere to go. I did try to kill myself with paracetamol, but it just made me sick.
Farida

Last year the government launched a consultation exercise on whether to make forcing someone into marriage a crime.

However, responses from those who responded - including pressure groups and individuals - showed a slim majority against creating a specific law.

At present, anyone found guilty of forcing someone into marriage can be prosecuted for kidnap, false imprisonment or rape.

The Forced Marriage Unit was initially set up by the Foreign Office in 2000. In January 2005 it was relaunched as a joint venture with the Home Office with an annual budget of 300,000.




SEE ALSO:
Forced marriage ban lacks support
12 Mar 06 |  UK Politics


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