Minimum marriage age will be raised to 18 in England and Wales in days

Minimum marriage age will be raised to 18 in England and Wales in days in bid to stop child brides being forced into wedlock

  • People were previously able to get married at 16 if they had parental consent
  • Adults who facilitate marriage for those under 18 could face seven years in jail
  • The new law prevents parents taking children abroad to get married before 18
  • The bill was introduced to parliament by Conservative MP Pauline Latham
  • Payzee Malika, who was forced into marriage, said the bill was ‘real life change’

The minimum marriage age in England and Wales will be raised to 18 in days in a bid to stop child brides being forced into wedlock.

People were previously able to get married at 16 or 17 if they had parental consent but ministers wanted to insert a clause clamping down on arranged marriages.

Under the new law, adults who facilitate marriage for anyone under the age of 18 could face up to seven years in prison as well as a fine, while the children involved will not face any penalties.

The bill also prevents parents taking children abroad to get married before turning 18.

It was introduced to parliament by Conservative MP Pauline Latham who claimed it would ‘transform the life chances of many girls’.

Payzee Malika, who was forced into marriage when she was just 16, said tears of joy rolled down her face when the bill was approved, adding it was ‘real life change’.

Payzee Malika (left), who was forced into marriage when she was just 16, said tears of joy rolled down her face when the bill was approved, adding it was ‘real life change’

Having passed through parliament without much opposition, the bill is expected to become law later this week once it receives Royal Assent.

Campaigners claimed the previous law was not strong enough to prevent parents marrying their children off under duress.

Leading charity Karma Nirvana had warned children as young as seven risked being married off.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab previously said he backed Ms Latham’s move, telling the Sun: ‘Forced child marriage ruins lives.

‘We back this Bill to keep vulnerable young people safe, by raising the legal age of marriage to 18, and closing gaps in the law which leave them at risk.’

There have been nearly 3,000 forced marriage protection orders in the last seven years despite the number of under 18s hoping to marry falling.

Ms Malika pictured alongside Baroness Liz Sugg after the bill was approved in the House of Lords. It is set to become law later this week when it receives Royal Assent

Ms Malika tweeted: ‘Struggling to put in to words what this means. I feel so many emotions. This is real life change.’

She managed to escape her marriage but her sister Banaz was murdered.

‘This is for me, for Banaz, for any child impacted by child marriage’, Ms Malika added.

‘This journey has been an incredible one. I’ve worked with so many women who have supported me, one another and this campaign. There is no us without you all. This is for every girl.

‘There has not been a single moment in this journey when Banaz was not at the forefront of my thoughts. Every day I thought of her. I fought for her. This law could have saved her. 

‘This morning my thoughts were clouded with the day I became a child bride. My day started today and that day very early. Anxious both days. Scared both days. Tears both days. But today today tears of joy roll down my face because I know what this means for girls like me.’

The new law does not affect marriages or civil partnerships that happened prior to this legislation coming in and does not apply in Northern Ireland or Scotland, where people can still marry at 16. 

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