In the UK, the minimum age to get married is 18. However, the law allows individuals who are even 16 or 17 to marry if there is parental consent.
The Office of National Statistic reported that from 2007 to 2017, a little over 3000 marriages of children aged 16 and 17 were legally registered in England and Wales.
Sadly, many have used this seeming loophole in the law to force children into marriage. There have also been cases of much younger children – even aged 7 – being made to marry with religious ceremonies and without a legal registration. Since no legal registration is involved, the law has nothing in place against such marriages.
Child marriage, which many feel is only a problem in third world countries, is, in fact, very much present in developed countries like the UK.
According to the Home Office, the year 2020 saw more than 750 potential cases of forced marriages in the UK. About a quarter of these cases involved children who were under the age of 18 and, shockingly, 15% of the cases were of children who were 15 or under. The charity group Karma Nirvana reported 76 cases of forced child marriages in just the last year.
Being in a forced marriage, especially for minors, has long-term consequences. Since such minors becomes fully reliant on adults, life opportunities sharply reduce and the risk of domestic abuse is higher.
Enough is Enough!
Tory MP Pauline Latham wants to bring a ban on all marriages under 18, even the religious and cultural ones which don’t get registered. By raising the legal age for all marriages to 18, many children can be protected from forced marriages.
As of now, all the MPs have offered complete support to the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill. On the 19th of November, the MPs unanimously voted for the second reading of the bill. It is now very close to becoming a law. One person who played a major role in proposing this bill is Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
If the bill is passed, the new law will not put penalties on the children. However, the adults who get children married will face imprisonment of up to 7 years and a fine. The same consequences will apply to individuals to take the child abroad to get him or her married.
By approving the bill, the government will make it crystal clear that child marriage is unacceptable, a form of child abuse and hence, a criminal offence. Parents and others will fear even considering getting children married. The seeming loophole in the law will forever be closed.
Mrs Latham states: “This is about breaking a harmful practice legacy that is often handed down from generation to generation. This bill will be an incredibly important tool in safeguarding young people and giving them the best chance for their futures.”
The new law will be welcomed joyfully by the many organisations who have been campaigning for decades against forced child marriages. If you would like to know more regarding forced child marriages or like to discuss with a Solicitor, please do not hesitate to contact us at Aristone Solicitors.