courts have stopped 29 young women in the Leeds district from being forced into marriage, the YEP can reveal.
They are all currently protected by West Yorkshire Police and other agencies under forced marriage protection orders (FMPO) introduced in 2009.
The orders, similar to antisocial behaviour orders, are granted by a county court judge and stop families taking daughters abroad to be married against their will.
The victim’s passport can also be confiscated and the parents ordered to change their behaviour.
It is not a crime in the UK to force someone into marriage. However, anyone breaching an order can be jailed for up to two years.
The YEP reported recently that Leeds was a hot spot of ‘honour’ crime and had been named third in a national league based on numbers of calls to the Honour Network helpline run by the Karma Nirvana charity.
Jasvinder Sanghera, founder of the charity, who escaped a forced marriage at the age of 16, told the YEP there were “far more cases” which remained hidden.
“Raising people’s awareness makes them use the legislation because nine times out of 10 they don’t know it exists,” she said.
“For this region, the reporting is still very low. Given the population and the minority groups, we know there will be thousands of victims, but it’s a very hidden issue. We’ve got to increase reporting and reduce isolation of victims.”
Ms Sanghera is calling on the police and other agencies to tackle the issue head-on - and not be trapped by political correctness.
“We have created a culture whereby our professionals have internalised a fear of getting it wrong,” she said.
“The damning thing is that it makes them turn a blind eye to what very clearly is a child protection issue.
“Why is it that hundreds of young females disappear from education and we are not asking questions? It’s because of political correctness and the fear of being called a racist.
“That’s’ what the perpetrators have been hiding behind. So we have to dispel the myths. I am not generalising, but this is a significant area of abuse that actually happens within these particular communities, which happen to be South Asian, Iranian, Somalian or African.
“This is absolutely not perpetuating cultural stereotypes - because it’s not part of any culture to be abused.”
Asim Mohammed, imam at Leeds’ biggest mosque, the Makkah Masjid in Hyde Park, said there was a vital distinction to be made between arranged and forced marriages.
“Arranged is where the couple are happy and families facilitate the marriage, but forced is forced,” he said.
“In Islam the consent of the bride is crucial to the marriage. But culturally, [forced marriage] takes place in a lot of communities.
“There is no disputing that it needs to be dealt with, The authorities should work with communities to overcome this issue.”
Imam Mohammed holds regular sermons on marriage and recently used the example of the Royal wedding “to promote how marriage should take place”.
DI Granville Ward, strategic co-ordinator for domestic violence at West Yorkshire Police, said: “Since the Act was introduced in 2009 we have assisted at least 29 women in West Yorkshire who are protected by these orders.
“FMPOs are not an automatic response to issues of this kind but are used when appropriate and the evidence so far suggests they have been extremely effective at protecting women in West Yorkshire.”