The current law in England and Wales allows 16- and 17-year olds to marry with parental consent, a legal exception that leaves children vulnerable to parental and familial coercion into child marriage.
The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill would raise the legal age of marriage in England and Wales to 18 and make child marriage a crime to better protect children from the risk of coerced child marriage.
Child marriage can be both a cause and consequence of trafficking and modern slavery, impacting the lives of millions of girls around the world. The UK worked hard to ensure the inclusion of child marriage within Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is a timely opportunity to bring domestic legislation in line with global commitments to end child, early and forced marriage under target 5.3 of the SDGs and to strengthen the UK’s leadership in combatting trafficking and modern slavery globally.