Ms Constance praised the third sector when it comes to dealing with forced marriage, following the publication of a government-commissioned report on the issue.
The issue will be raised in Parliament on Wednesday, when the Cabinet Secretary will lead a wider debate on Female Genital Mutilation, ahead of International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM on February 6.
The report – Understanding forced marriage in Scotland – outlines nine recommendations. It forms part of the on-going work by the Forced Marriage Network, facilitated by the Scottish Government, which brings together key agencies to protect those affected by forced marriage and raises awareness.
Ms Constance said: “Forcing a person into marriage is an abuse of human rights, and we are committed to protecting those at risk and preventing the harm associated with all forms of violence under the guise of culture or religion – so-called Honour Based Violence.
“We recognise that women, children and young people experience a range of unacceptable behaviours associated with forced marriage, including domestic, physical or emotional abuse. I want to thank the authors of this report for their work, and will look carefully at what’s being proposed.
“What’s clear is that survivors identified the excellent support they receive from third sector agencies, who are providing first class, trusted support.
“This research has also helpfully identified the barriers to accessing and receiving the right support and intervention, and so we must seek to increase the confidence of those who need assistance and those who need to provide it.
“Alongside our partners we have developed and published a range of awareness-raising material, as well as funding specialist services to help tackle the issue. There will be no room for complacency – this is a hidden issue which often takes place behind closed doors. We will continue to take forward further work with our partners to raise awareness and provide therapeutic and practical support to those at risk.
“We are committed to eradicating all forms of violence against women, and to looking at ways to improve reporting and ensuring the third sector are best equipped to continue their vital work.”
Elaine Mclaughlin, from Hermat Gryffe Womens Aid, said: “We welcome the research into the practice of Forced Marriage in Scotland. The research identifies that there are the unique set of circumstances young Scots encounter when faced with this situation. Responses by agencies and organisations when confronted with a young person who has experienced Forced Marriage or under threat of Forced Marriage should be collaborative and person centred.”
Sarah McHaffie, from Amina Womens Aid, said: “Research into the extent of forced marriage can only give us the tip of the iceberg. There is so much pressure to keep things hidden. Some victims don’t have the ability to name the coercion that takes place. However, quality research into this topic allows us as an organisation to demonstrate the need for our work with women.
“We support women who are still in marriages they were forced into, we help women who have escaped to tell their stories and establish new lives, and we help the Forced Marriage Unit with information for survivors who are due to be repatriated. As we facilitate the telling of individual stories, it’s heartening to see that this research will highlight important issues as they play out on a national level.
“We hope that third sector and statutory organisations will prioritise this issue, raise their own awareness and improve responses in order to better support those at risk.”