UK MPs voted on a “ground-breaking” bill on 19 November to make all forms of child marriage illegal in England and Wales. Girls Not Brides UK members described this as a significant milestone in their campaign to end child marriage.
“Today’s success is a clear step towards making sure that girls in the UK are able to choose their own futures, and we could not be prouder of our members’ tireless efforts to make this country a better place where every girl can thrive” said Faith Mwangi-Powell, CEO of Girls Not Brides.
“Laws and policies are essential in preventing child marriage, but we also need to change the attitudes that make child marriage acceptable in the first place” she added.
Currently 16 and 17-year-olds can be legally married with parental consent within the UK. However, many children are married due to parental coercion.
The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill will raise the minimum age of marriage and civil partnership from 16 to 18 in England and Wales. It will also include unregistered marriages and covers all children living in England and Wales, including those married overseas.
“This ground-breaking change in the law will make it absolutely clear that no child should ever face child marriage and the lifelong harms that it causes” said Diana Nammi, Executive Director of IKWRO Women’s Rights Organisation, a charity that supports girls at risk of child marriage and co-chair Girls Not Brides UK.
“The law will be on the side of children and vitally, it places the onus squarely on safeguarding professionals to protect any child who is at risk of child marriage.”
“We’re absolutely delighted. It’s a campaign that’s been 10 years in the running and to get this far is incredible” said Natasha Rattu, Executive Director of Karma Nirvana, part of Girls Not Brides UK.
Conservative MP Pauline Latham has been championing the cause for many years. As she presented the bill to the Commons last week, she acknowledged the help and support of “the charities who form the partnership Girls Not Brides UK; Karma Nirvana, IKWRO, Forward UK and the Independent Yemen Group.”
Latham went on to thank them for their “instrumental” role in providing data, campaign support and “the never-ending source of inspiration to keep on pushing for change in this area.”
The bill was met with cross-party support in the Commons. It will now go through to committee stage where each part will be debated.
In the time it has taken to read this article 25 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