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MAJOR new change to marriage law comes into force in England and Wales

by Lindsay Green, SIGBI Programme Director

As we approach the Commission on the Status of women Meetings at the UN. I was pleased to see the news today that the Marriage and Civil Partnership Act 2022 has come into force today in England and Wales. The change honours the government’s commitment to the pledge made to the United Nations to end child marriage by 2030. The legislation will not affect Scotland or Northern Ireland, because marriage is a devolved matter.

It means that 16 and 17 year olds will no longer be allowed to marry or enter a civil partnership, even if they have parental consent in England and Wales.  This change in the law will further protect vulnerable children under 18 years old,  cracking down on forced marriages which can cause lasting damage on a child and forms part of the government’s continued commitment to tackle violence against women and girls.

Those found guilty of arranging child marriages face sentences of up to 7 years in prison.

The age of 18 is widely recognised as the age at which one becomes an adult and gains full citizenship rights.

The change was introduced through a Private Member’s Bill brought to Parliament by Pauline Latham OBE MP and was supported by campaign organisations within the Girls Not Brides Coalition, which work to end child marriage and ‘honour’-based abuse.

Child marriage is often associated with domestic abuse towards girls, leaving education early, limited career opportunities, and serious physical and mental health problems. It will protect both Girls and Boys as it is known that child marriage destroys lives.

The Government have updated The Right to Choose an easy read version of the multi-agency practice guidelines for dealing with forced marriage and can be found below.