Learn the lessons of grooming scandals to end forced marriage misery - The Yorkshire Post says

For many years, the widespread crimes of grooming gangs who preyed on vulnerable children went ignored - with terrible consequences for countless victims in many Yorkshire towns and cities.

Yorkshire has one of the highest national rates for forced marriage reports to the police.

As different scandals gradually came to light about the way in which children had been befriended, plied with drink and drugs and eventually used or even sold for sex often in full view of the authorities, the most shameful reason offered for inaction was misplaced political correctness resulting in an unwillingness to tackle gangs who often came from Pakistani-heritage backgrounds.

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The result was ruined childhoods and a breakdown in trust between communities while far-right extremists exploited the scandals to whip up hatred. In this light, the parallels between child sexual exploitation and forced marriage underline the importance of effective action to tackle the latter problem.

Rotherham has become associated with its child sexual exploitation scandal.

Forced marriage only became a criminal offence in 2014 and politicians have often been wary of causing offence to cultural sensitivities given many victims have Muslim backgrounds - despite freely-given consent being just as much a prerequisite in marriages under Islam as it is in Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Sikh ceremonies. But with over 180 cases in this region last year and victims as young as 13, the issue cannot be ignored.

It is heartening to hear of effective police work but officers can only deal with cases they are aware of.

Both the authorities and affected communities must learn the lessons of grooming scandals to end this outdated practice.

Many reported cases of forced marriage have been reported in Leeds. Pic: James Hardisty