London: British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday outlined plans to tackle forced marriages in the UK saying forcing someone into it could be made a criminal offence under possible changes to the law.
   
In his speech, the PM also said the government was to consult on making it a criminal offence in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to force a person to marry against their wishes.
   
Earlier this year, the Home Office rejected the idea amid fears that victims might be put off coming forward.
   
Cameron announced plans to make it a criminal offence to breach orders imposed by the courts to prevent forced marriages taking place.
   
This generally happens in Scotland.
   
Forced Marriage Protection Orders were introduced in 2008 for England, Wales and Northern Ireland under the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007.
   
A potential victim, friend or police can apply for an order aimed at protecting an individual through the co0urts and anyone found to have breached one can be jailed for up to two years for contempt of court, although this is classed as a civil offence.
   
The Prime Minister wants that changed, as well as a re-examination of proposals to create a specific criminal offence covering the act of trying to force someone into marriage.
   
In his speech, Cameron said: "Forced marriage is little more than slavery.”
   
"To force someone into marriage is completely wrong and I strongly believe this is a problem we should not shy away from addressing because of some cultural concerns."
   
Last year, a unit set up to tackle the problem dealt with 1,700 cases, but many more are supposed to have gone unreported.


(Agencies)