CAMPAIGNERS in Lancashire have slammed news that the Government is not planning to criminalise forced marriage.

The Home Office said that, despite pressure from MPs to do so, a move to make a specific law categorising forced marriage as illegal is not going to be pursued.

Campaigners said the news was a ‘backwards step’ in the fight against honour violence.

Anjum Anwar, chair of Woman’s Voice in Blackburn, said: “Forced marriage is not a marriage.

"It’s a criminal act and must be dealt with as such.

“How can a Government not legislate against criminal behaviour?

“This news really upsets me. I work with victims of forced marriages and I know how it ruins lives.

"Ask those women if they are the victims of criminal behaviour and you will get a very clear answer.”

Salim Mulla, from the Lancashire Council of Mosques, said: “Forced marriage is not acceptable and this decision from the Government sends out completely the wrong message.

“It is obviously a criminal act and the Government cannot ignore it.

“This will disappoint so many people in Lancashire who have been working hard on the issue.”

Earlier this year, the Home Affairs committee urged the government to create a new crime, saying that there needed to be a criminal sanction to help prevent people breaching forced marriage protection orders.

The court orders, created in 2007, are the government's key legal tool to protect potential victims and are used to forbid families from actions such as taking people abroad for marriage, seizing passports or intimidating victims.

If someone breaches an order they can be jailed for up to two years.

Blackburn County Court is one of only 15 in the country to hear Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO) applications.