Marriage Is Now Banned For 16 And 17-Year-Olds In England And Wales

The minimum age for marriage has been increased to 18.
Under-18s will no longer be able to get married in England and Wales.
Under-18s will no longer be able to get married in England and Wales.
Geoff Kirby - PA Images via Getty Images

Under-18s have been banned from getting married in England and Wales in a move aimed at preventing vulnerable children from being forced to wed.

It means that 16 and 17-year-olds can no longer get married or enter into a civil partnership – even with parental consent.

The change, under the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act, also means it is now a crime to arrange for children to marry under any circumstances.

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

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

“The change to legislation on child marriage is a huge victory for survivors,” she said.

“It is a huge leap forward to tackling this usually hidden abuse and will provide a greater degree of protection to those at risk.”

Rattu said that last year the national Honour Based Abuse helpline reported 64 cases of child marriage.

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 anyone found guilty of arranging child marriages potentially getting a sentence of up to seven years in prison.

He said: “This law will better protect vulnerable young people, by cracking down on forced marriage in our society.

“Those who act to manipulate children into marrying under-age will now rightly face the full force of the law.”

Conservative MP Pauline Latham, who introduced the bill in Parliament in 2021, said Monday is a “landmark day for the campaigners who have worked relentlessly for over five years to ban child marriage in this country”.

She added: “Child marriage destroys lives and through this legislation we will protect millions of boys and girls over the coming years from this scourge.”


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