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The legal age of marriage in England and Wales has now increased from 16 to 18 years of age.
New legislation under the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 came into force on 27 February 2023. This means that 16- and 17-year-olds now cannot marry or enter into a civil partnership, even in the situation where they may have parental consent.
This increase was brought about following a Private Members Bill at Parliament introduced by Pauline Latham MP which was supported by organisations within the “Girls not brides Coalition”. This group seeks to end child marriage and “honour-based” abuse.
A press release from the Ministry of Justice following this legislation coming into force stated that this change will protect children from the damaging impact of forced marriage. The Act also creates a new offence of causing a child to marry which carries a sentence of up to 7 years imprisonment and the offence extends to marriage in non-legally binding ceremonies.
This action was the result of 5 years of campaigning to end child marriage once and for all and it is intended to protect millions of boys and girls from abuse over the coming years.
In 2021 the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit provided advice and support to 118 individuals below the age of 18. It is also stated that the courts issued 3343 Forced Marriage Protection Orders between 2008 and September 2022 which prevents someone from using threats, violence or emotional abuse as a way to force someone into marriage.
Natasha Rattu, Director of Karma Nirvana, who is a member of the Girls Not Brides Coalition stated “Last year, the National Honour Based Helpline supported 64 cases of child marriage, representing a small picture of a much bigger problem. We hope that the new law will help to increase identification and reporting, affording greater protection to children at risk”.
For further information and advice on this issue, and other family law issues, please contact us for a free initial consultation on 01992 306 616 or 0207 956 2740 or email us.Back to Law Articles