An update on the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill

The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill has received royal assent. This means that the minimum age of marriage is changing from 16-18. In my view this is a positive move and one which will help reduce forced marriage.

Arranged marriages are those where a person, usually parents, arrange a marriage with the full consent of those marrying. Often, but not always, the people marrying have met before on more than one occasion and are content that they are appropriately matched and happy to proceed. That’s arranged, not forced.

A forced marriage is where someone does not feel they can say no to a marriage due to threats of violence, emotional pressure, being otherwise disowned from family and community or financial isolation.

Forced marriages are often associated with African, Indian and Traveller communities but the reality is that it’s much more widespread. It happens in families and communities all over the world including in England and Wales and across Europe. Some people are taken abroad to marry but many are married in their home country once it becomes legal for the marriage to take place, in England and Wales this is currently age 16, an age where most children would not know where to turn if they were scared of being forced to marry, where they have no where to run to if they needed to leave, no money to support themselves and no option but to marry. These pressures are not resolved by age 18 but for some may have noticeably reduced.

In numerous cases in which I have been involved, the case potentially could have been avoided had the age of marriage been 18. In my opinion this is a really positive move and will protect many children from the abuse of the forced marriage itself and the abuse that later occurs as a consequence of what is often an unhappy and abusive marriage.

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