New UK Legal Age for Marriage

Marriage Legal age change UK england

In February 2023, the legal age of marriage in the UK changed from 16 to 18 years old. The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill, was passed with overwhelming support from both the government and opposition. The change in law comes after years of campaigning by child rights activists who argued that children could be abused physically, emotionally, and sexually if given permission to marry before the age of 18.

Why has the UK Marriage Law changed?

The previous law allowed children aged 16 and 17 to marry with the consent of both parents or guardians, or with the consent of one parent or guardian if the other was deceased or could not be found. In exceptional cases, the courts could also grant permission for children as young as 12 to marry. However, this outdated and discriminatory law disproportionately affected girls and those from vulnerable backgrounds. The Charity Plan International UK found that over 2,000 children under 18 were married in England and Wales between 2010 and 2018, with most of the marriages being between girls and older men (BBC News, 2021).

A significant step forward…

As a significant step forward in protecting children from harmful practices, the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill was widely supported by organisations such as the Children’s Commissioner, the NSPCC, and the Forced Marriage Unit. The change in the legal age of marriage in England is a significant step towards protecting children from harmful practices and ensuring that they have the freedom to make informed choices about their lives.

As a result of closing the legal loophole that allowed children under 18 to marry, the government has sent a clear message that child marriage has no place in a modern, progressive society. While there may be some challenges in implementing the new law, it is an important milestone in the fight to end child marriage in the UK and beyond.

Children and Young Persons Services at CBAT

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BBC News. (2023, February 27. Legal age of marriage raised to 18 in England and Wales.