The legal marriage limit increased to 18 in England and Wales
23 May 2023
Written by Owen White Catlin Solicitors Category:
With the legal marriage age in England and Wales increasing to 18, vulnerable children in both countries will be better shielded from the negative effects of coerced marriage.
The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 received royal assent in April last year and came into force on 27 February 2023. This means that even if they have parental consent, 16 and 17-year-olds will no longer be permitted to get married or form a civil union.
The arrangement of a susceptible child's marriage is now prohibited and punishable by law, regardless of whether force is used.
The change, which is part of the government's ongoing resolve to combat violence against women and girls, will severely restrict forced marriages, which can permanently harm a child.
Those convicted of arranging minor marriages risk receiving prison terms of up to 7 years.
The age of 18 is generally accepted as the threshold for adulthood and the acquisition of complete citizenship rights.
The change was implemented as a result of a Private Member's Bill that Pauline Latham, OBE MP submitted to Parliament with the help of advocacy groups from the Girls Not Brides Coalition, which works to end child marriage and "honour"-based abuse.
Speaking about the bill, Latham said, "This is a landmark day for the campaigners who have worked relentlessly for over 5 years to ban child marriage in this country. Child marriage destroys lives, and through this legislation, we will protect millions of boys and girls over the coming years from this scourge."
Child marriage is frequently linked to domestic violence against women, dropping out of school early, limited career possibilities, and severe physical and mental health issues. The modification honours the government's commitment to its promise to the UN to stop child marriage by the year 2030.