Huge rise in children reporting forced marriage fears
NSPCC reveals fourfold increase in calls to phone helpline since 2012
New figures from the charity NSPCC claim more children than ever are appealing for help due to their fear of being forced into marriage.
What are the figures?
Calls to Childline, the NSPCC's confidential hotline, led to 205 counselling sessions last year over fears of forced marriage, up from 55 sessions in 2012 - a nearly four-fold increase.
Case studies from the charity show children as young as 13 face violence, bullying and threats to marry, often to people they have never met.
Why the increase?
According to the government's forced marriage unit, 80 per cent of the cases it deals with affect girls and communities from more than 60 countries.
Some children believe defying their parents' wishes may bring "dishonour" and lead to them being isolated from their families.
Young people are particularly at risk during long school summer holidays, when they can be taken out of the country for an extended period of time and forced to marry, says the charity.
One 17-year-old girl told it: "I got forced to marry last year. I never wanted any of this. My friends are being supportive, but I can't talk to my mum about it as she thinks he's the best thing for me and told me that if I end the marriage, she won't speak to me ever again. I've never even met him."
"The increase may also be explained by potential victims being more aware of the help available and a greater awareness that the practice is wrong," says The Guardian.
What is being done?
A new law tackling forced marriage as part of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 has so far resulted in one prosecution, the NSPCC ays.
Figures from the Crown Prosecution Service show there were 246 instances of forced marriage protection orders being issued by the family courts in 2016 and 90 police referrals, of which 53 went to trial.
However, NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said more needed to be done, both at a state and family level, "to help break the cycle and speak up, so that we can step in and stop a child being bound into something that they would never ask for".