People used to be able to get married at 16 or 17 with parental consent and at 18 with or without consent, but now the law has been changed so people can’t get married until they are 18
Pauline Latham MP called it a ‘milestone day’ against child marriage in Britain (Derby Telegraph)
A law raising the legal age for marriage to 18 has been hailed as a “major victory for the survivors” of forced marriages.
From today, people aged 16 out of 17 in England or Wales cannot marry or civil partnership – even with parental consent – to protect young teenagers.
The change means that it is now a crime to exploit vulnerable children by allowing them to marry under any circumstances.
The law will also not cover legally binding “traditional” ceremonies, which would still be considered marriages by the parties and their families, the government said.
Natasha Rattu, director of the charity Karma Nirvana, which is a member of the Girls Not Brides Coalition, said: “The change in child marriage legislation is a huge victory for survivors.
Marriage Age Raised to 18 (Stock Photo) (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
“This is a major step forward in tackling this usually hidden abuse and will offer a higher level of protection to those at risk.”
“Last year the National Honor Abuse Hotline assisted 64 cases of child marriage, which is just a small picture of a much larger problem. We hope the new law will help improve identification and reporting and provide better protection for vulnerable children.”
Those found guilty of arranging child marriages now face a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said: “This law will better protect vulnerable young people by tackling forced marriages.
“Those who manipulate children into marrying minors are rightly faced with the full force of the law.”
MP Pauline Latham introduced the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act bill to Parliament in 2021.
The Conservative said today was a “milestone day for the activists who have worked tirelessly to ban child marriage in this country for over five years”.
She added: “Child marriage destroys lives and through this legislation we will protect millions of boys and girls from this scourge for years to come.”
The government’s Forced Marriage Service provided advice or assistance in 118 cases of victims under the age of 18 in 2021.
The Justice Department said the statistics show that forced marriage affects girls more than boys.
In 2018, 28 boys under the age of 18 got married, compared to 119 girls in England and Wales.