Today marks a key milestone for the movement to end child marriage in England and Wales - with the minimum age of marriage rising from 16 to 18.
Under The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act, it becomes illegal for 16- and 17- year olds to be married, or enter into a civil partnership, even with parental consent. It criminalises arranged marriage for children under any circumstance, and introduces harsher penalties for those found guilty of up to 7 years in prison.
Previously, marriage of 16- and 17- year olds was only illegal if it took place under threat or use of force.
The new law will also recognise all those married under the age of 18 as victims of forced marriage, creating a route for identification and reporting of illegal child marriage.
“This is probably one of the most important days of my life”, says Payzee Mahmod, a relentless campaigner and survivor of child marriage, speaking to the BBC. "It's very emotional for me because I know truly, in great detail, the harms of child marriage. (The new law means) the onus is no longer on the child to have to speak up against their parents or their community when they are faced with child marriage".
This shows how much can be achieved when the movement works together, and consistently advocates for the legal changes needed to protect young women from forced or arranged marriages. Today is a great day for the movement and we celebrate the great advocacy efforts of our colleagues and friends at Girls Not Brides UK and campaigners across the countryDr Faith Mwangi-Powell, CEO, Girls Not Brides
Legal reform is only one step towards ending child marriage.
Long-term, comprehensive gender-transformative approaches are the only way to end child marriage and support girls who are – or have been – married. Such interventions include culturally sensitive engagement with parents and the gatekeepers of social norms with influence in the communities where the practice continues. Investment in education, health and a legal system that support equal opportunities and equal rights of all are essential to create the alternatives that are needed to end the practice.
If you are interested in learning more about child marriage and the law in different contexts, please read ‘the law and child marriage’.
For more information:
- The UK Home Office has released a resource pack providing further information on the new law and resources to support it: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/forced-marriage-resource-pack/forced-marriage-resource-pack
In the time it has taken to read this article 29 girls under the age of 18 have been married
Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18
That is 23 girls every minute
Nearly 1 every 2 seconds
Girls Not Brides UK became an official Girls Not Brides National Partnership in July 2014. Its members are working to end child marriage in the UK and globally. The members…
The law and child marriage
Progressive legal frameworks are one element of a comprehensive response to address child marriage, as reflected within the Girls Not Brides Theory of Change. Any legal change to address child…