5-year-old girl becomes youngest British victim of forced marriage

Her case came to light as a public consultation into criminalising forced marriage wraps up today.

The girl was among 400 children – a quarter of total cases – helped by the government’s Forced Marriage Unit over the past year, it has emerged.

One in ten of the cases involved victims aged below 15, while 19 per cent of those affected were aged 16 to 17-years-old.

Another organisation, the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation, which is campaigning to criminalise force marriage, said it deals with an alarming 100 cases every year.

The organisation’s Fionnuala Murphy, said it dealt with clients who are in their early teens.

“The youngest case we had was nine-years-old.”

Last year, when the government announced there were some 8000 reported cases of forced marriages each year, Conservative Party chairman Baroness Warsi said it was a disgrace that the concept was only a matter of civil law.

Forcing someone to do anything against their will, by violence or by coercion, is “inhumane and unacceptable”, she said.

She added: “I have met some of the victims. They speak about wedlock being used as a weapon and the horrors to which this can lead, such as rape, abuse and unwanted pregnancy.”

The Forced Marriage Unit is a joint intiative between the Foreign Commonwealth Office, and the Home Office.

In 2011, the unit investigated 1468 suspected cases of forced marriage, but many more are feared to go unreported.

Of those, 66 involved victims with disabilities and 10 identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. A total of 78 per cent of victims were female.

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