Consultation Finds Girl Of Five Forced Into Marriage

As a consultation looking into criminalising forced marriage in England, Wales and Northern Ireland reaches its end figures have shown a 5-year-old may be the UK’s youngest victim.

The child is one of 400 in the last year to receive assistance from the government's Forced Marriage Unit.

Joint head of the Forced Marriage Unit, Amy Cumming, said 29% of the cases it dealt with last year involved minors.

"The youngest of these was actually five years old, so there are children involved in the practice across the school age range," she said.

The case comes as no surprise to the Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation (IKWRO): "We have had clients who are in their very early teens, 11-year-olds, 12-year-olds, the youngest case we had was nine years old."

IKWRO campaigns officer Fionnuala Murphy said that now the consultation is over she hopes forced marriage will become a criminal offence.

"Our organisation is pro-criminalisation because we believe that it will empower victims to know that this is a crime, to stand up to their parents and to stand up for their own rights and it will enable them to come forward and seek help and say what's happening to me is wrong."

Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone said the government would now look at all the arguments.

"We will now consider all of those views and responses to the consultation before we make a decision on the best way to protect vulnerable people.

"We are determined, working closely with charities and other organisations doing a tremendous amount in this area, to make forced marriage a thing of the past."

A decision is expected to be announced later this year.

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