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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 August 2007, 06:58 GMT 07:58 UK
Tories aim to end forced marriage
Asian women
There are some frightening tales of forced marriages, say Conservatives
The Conservatives have outlined proposals aimed at cracking down on forced marriages.

One is that anyone planning to marry outside the country should register their intentions - and the name of their fiance - before leaving the UK.

The government's forced marriages unit deals with some 300 cases each year, but the Tories say more than 1,000 forced marriages occur annually.

Forced marriages mostly involve women from the South Asian community.

'Second-class citizens'

Forced marriages are those conducted without the consent of one or both parties, with pressure a factor - unlike arranged marriages, which have the consent of both parties.

Even if there are parts of cultural traditions that suggest young women don't have the right to decide who they marry or not, well that's not acceptable in modern Britain
Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green
The idea behind the Conservatives' suggestion is that if people who want to marry abroad have to register their plans, it would prevent unsuspecting women being taken abroad for a holiday, only to find themselves being married off.

Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green told the BBC: "There are some frightening and disturbing tales of girls of 16, 17 being threatened and bullied into marrying men they've never met and have had no contact with, and feeling too scared to do anything about it."

He said it was both an immigration and a human rights issue.

"It's also a cohesion issue, because we have a big debate in this country about Britishness and what it involves, and often it's a fairly airy-fairy debate, to be perfectly honest.

"I think one of the ways you can make practical Britishness is to say there are some things which are just not acceptable in modern Britain, and forced marriage would certainly be one of those."

One of the most important individual rights in Britain was to decide who to marry, he said.

"Even if there are parts of cultural traditions that suggest young women don't have the right to decide who they marry or not, well that's not acceptable in modern Britain."

His party was putting out a number of proposals for consultation this week, he said.

Peter Abbott, of the forced marriages unit, said in March: "We deal with around 300 cases a year. Around 65% of cases involved people of Pakistani descent, and 25% are of Bangladeshi descent.

"Around 85% of cases are women, just 15% are men, but in reality the figures for men are probably much higher.

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