Legal age of marriage rises to eighteen

By nation.cymru

3 weeks ago 252 views


A new law raising the legal age of marriage to 18 has been hailed as a “huge victory for survivors”.

From today, 16 and 17-year-olds can no longer wed or enter a civil partnership in England or Wales – even with parental consent – in an effort to better protect children from forced marriage.

The change, under the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022, means it is now a crime to exploit vulnerable children by arranging for them to marry under any circumstances, whether or not force was used.

The law will cover non-legally binding “traditional” ceremonies which would still be viewed as marriages by the parties and their families, the Government said.

The new legislation has been described as a “huge leap forward” in fighting back against the “hidden abuse” of forced marriage.

Natasha Rattu, director of the Karma Nirvana charity which is a member of the Girls Not Brides Coalition, said she hopes there will be better identification and reporting of such cases. She said:

“The change to legislation on child marriage is a huge victory for survivors. It is a huge leap forward to tackling this usually hidden abuse and will provide a greater degree of protection to those at risk.

“Last year, the national Honour Based Abuse helpline supported 64 cases of child marriage, representing only a small picture of a much bigger problem. We hope that the new law will help to increase identification and reporting, affording greater protection to children at risk.”

The Government’s forced marriage unit provided advice or support in 118 cases involving victims aged under 18 in 2021.

The Ministry of Justice said the statistics showed forced marriage is more likely to impact girls than boys, with 2018 figures for England and Wales showing that 28 boys married under the age of 18 compared with 119 girls.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said perpetrators will face the “full force of the law”, with someone found guilty of arranging child marriages potentially getting a sentence of up to seven years in prison.

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