VICTIMS of forced marriage in East Lancashire are being urged to get help.
It comes as bosses at a leading charity said there were just 24 cases reported to them last year in one town — far fewer than they believed were actually happening.
An awareness campaign has been set up by the Karma Nirvana organisation to highlight changes in the law that will make forced marriage illegal.
Project manager Anup Manota said: “We hope it will prevent people being forced into marriages and we hope it sends a strong message that forced marriages are abuse.
“It is not part of any religion or culture.
“It is completely wrong and you will be prosecuted.”
Karma Nirvana is carrying out 21 roadshows across the UK to raise awareness about the changes.
As of June, forced marriage will be a criminal offence, rather than something that is dealt with by a civil protection order.
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It means that anybody convicted can be jailed for up to seven years. A forced marriage is when the victim does not consent to getting married.
Yesterday’s event was held at King George’s Hall, Blackburn, because the town had been identified as one of the areas with low rates of reporting.
The group received an average of 550 calls each month during 2013, though just 24 were from Blackburn.
Mr Manota said: “This is an area we have not received many calls from. We feel it is an under-reported area.
“As a charity we are campaigning in this field and wherever we have been campaigning, we usually see an increase in calls from that area.
“At the end of the day, we are saving people’s lives.”
Victims can call the helpline on 0800 5999247.