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26 NOV 2009

More forced marriage protection orders issued in first year than expected

More people have been protected by Forced Marriage Protection Orders than originally expected in their first year of operation, according to new figures from the Ministry of Justice.

Eighty-six have been issued, compared to the predicted total of 50, since the protection orders were introduced on 25 November last year.

Forced Marriage Protection Orders give local authorities the powers to seek a protection for vulnerable adults and children without first having to seek leave of the court.

The orders can be used to prevent anyone entering into any arrangements for engagement or marriage, seize passports to stop someone from being taken abroad and reveal the whereabouts of a person.

The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) was set up in 2005 and is meant to assist actual and potential victims of forced marriage, as well as professionals working in the social, educational and voluntary sectors.

In the press release issued yesterday announcing the new figures, the Ministry of Justice declared it supports victims of forced marriage in a number of ways including funding the Honour Network, a support helpline for victims of forced marriage and honour-based violence.

However earlier this month the national helpline announced it will have to close at the end of December 2009 as funding from the FMU has run out.

The dedicated helpline is run by the charity Karma Nirvana, which helps survivors of honour crimes and forced marriages.

The FMU gave the charity £43,000 to open the helpline in April 2008. By the end of September 2009 it had received a total of 6,702 calls. Despite the charity's plea to the government for support, the funding ran out a year later and donations are insufficient to cover costs.

The charity has now created a petition on the Prime Minister's Office website that implores the government to properly fund the Honour Network Helpline. To date there have been 1,375 signatures.

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