updated 7/23/2008 8:20:10 PM ET 2008-07-24T00:20:10

Britain's Home Office said it is raising the age at which someone can bring a foreign spouse to Britain in an attempt to reduce forced marriages.

Raising the age from 18 to 21 will reduce the number of marriages in which young British women, many from immigrant families, are taken abroad and pressured into marrying men their families have chosen for them, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said.

The government said 30 percent of cases at its Forced Marriage Unit — which helps British nationals who fear they may be forced into marriage overseas — involves people between 18 and 21.

The new legislation should protect this group of people, according to the Home Office.

The new rules also said British citizens who get married abroad will have to declare their intent to marry before they leave the country.

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