Forcing someone to marry is set to be made a crime after David Cameron rejected claims that doing so would simply drive the practice underground.
The move, expected to be announced tomorrow would represent a victory for campaigners who argued that only full criminalisation would deter abusive families.
Almost 1,700 people a year in Britain – most of them women from Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds – come forward to voice fears that their family is plotting to force them into a marriage against their will. But the figure is thought to be only the tip of the iceberg with many afraid for their lives or fearing that they would be ostracised if they resisted.
It emerged earlier this year that a five-year-old girl had been forced into a marriage and last year alone the Home Office’s dedicated Forced Marriage Unit dealt with 400 children.
An 87-year-old woman was also a suspected victim.