As many as 8,000 cases of forced marriage were reported in England last year, according to a Government report.
The study published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families claims that the overwhelming majority of victims are teenage girls from Pakistan or Bangladesh.
They are often coerced into getting married to preserve family honour rather than allow them to form relationships with boys from other cultures or religions, it is claimed, or to help others move to Britain.
The report says some of the young brides are forced to marry abroad after being taken on a supposed holiday then having their passports confiscated, while others are drugged or subjected to violence or threats if they protest.
Many forced marriages remain hidden because those involved are taken out of school, fear reporting relatives to the authorities or cannot obtain help overseas.
The report calculates that, in 2008, between 5,275 and 7,750 cases were reported to the authorities in England.
The Foreign Office's dedicated unit dealt with 420 cases last year – almost treble the 152 in 2005 – and has now issued guidance to health workers and teachers on how to spot potential victims.
Chris Bryant, a junior minister in the department, said: Nobody should be forced into marriage against their will or without their free and open consent. It is depressing that this practise does still continue, for whatever reason, and as a Government
we are determined to do everything we can to put a stop to it and to protect the vulnerable. There is no culture in which this is acceptable in a modern world.
An NHS doctor from east London who was held hostage and forced into marriage has spoken for the first time about her four-month ordeal, during which she feared for her life.
Dr Humayra Abedin, who was freed from her vows on the orders of a Bangladeshi court soon after The Independent on Sunday highlighted her plight, described the humiliation and pain she suffered at the hands of her parents, some members of her extended
family and nurses and doctors in a private psychiatric hospital in Bangladesh last year.
In an exclusive interview with the IoS, Dr Abedin told of the moment she was abducted: My face was covered with a piece of cloth by men who told me they were policemen, before they carried me out into an ambulance which was parked outside the house.
They held my arms and legs, carried me like a prisoner, while my parents stood in the background.
She was driven, kicking and screaming, to a private hospital, on the request of her family. During the journey, she was held down and gagged by three people as they tried to stop her shouting.
This was the first time I thought, 'this is it, I am dying', said Dr Abedin: I begged them to stop. And so began the nightmare.