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Police visit Kent ports to raise awareness of forced marriage and other forms of abuse

Victims of forced marriage and other forms of faith-related abuse are being encouraged to come forward.

Police visited three different access points in Kent to speak to travellers and members of the public about a range of harmful practices affecting some children in the UK and abroad.

This includes forced marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM) and other more common issues such as domestic and sexual abuse.

Police on patrol. Stock image
Police on patrol. Stock image

Police were handing out leaflets at Ebbsfleet International station, the Port of Dover and the Eurotunnel terminal in Folkestone last Thursday and Friday.

The campaign is part of a national initiative aimed at giving victims and witnesses the confidence to come forward while also raising awareness among other members of the public.

Those travelling to or from countries where such crimes are prevalent were also spoken to.

Chf Supt Andy Pritchard, head of Kent Police’s public protection team, said: "Kent Police and its partners are committed to working with communities to help tackle such important issues, which we hope in time will mean children and vulnerable adults are no longer subjected to practices that pose a significant risk to their health and wellbeing.

"Forced marriage in particular is a hidden and under-reported crime so it is important we make victims and witnesses aware of the support available to them.

"Everyone has the right to choose who they marry, when they marry and whether or not they want to get married..." Chf Supt Andy Pritchard

"Everyone has the right to choose who they marry, when they marry and whether or not they want to get married, and anyone who pressures someone into marriage is breaking the law and can be sentenced to up to seven years in prison.

"Ultimately there is no excuse, cultural or otherwise, and no religion condones forced marriage."

An NSPCC spokesperson said: “Forcing children into marriage robs them of their childhood and can involve physical, sexual or emotional abuse.

“Sometimes children are, understandably, too frightened to speak up because they believe they have no control over the situation and they worry they will get their family into trouble or be disowned by their parents.

“But it’s so vital that they do speak up. We want them to know that they can always talk to Childline, no matter the hour, and there is always a counsellor ready to listen and to help.”

If you are aware of someone at risk, you can report it online at www.kent.police.uk/report, by calling 101 or by visiting a police station.

Alternatively contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111 or by visiting www.crimestoppers-uk.org.

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