Campaign Update:

January 29, 2020: Payzee raised awareness in the British Parliament with MPs urging the UK to ban child marriage. Freedom United powered Payzee and a strong coalition of organizations with over 100,000 voices calling for an end to child marriage in the UK. Read more here.

Safeguard Futures: End child marriage

Payzee Mahmod and Sara Browne from our partner, IKWRO
Jan 2020 UK Parliament event: Pauline Latham MP and Sarah Champion MP
Jan 2020 UK Parliament event: Miriam, with Natasha Rattu, Karma Nirvana and Sara Browne, IKWRO
Jan 2020 UK Parliament event: Campaign partners
Jan 2020 UK Parliament event: Payzee Mahmod and our Senior Advocacy Officer, Miriam

I didn’t realise it at the time what it was [an exploitative marriage] but I feel it was mental abuse that stayed with me for many years. He would use my age against me and said I was too young to make my own decisions.”1 Payzee Mahmod, talking about her experience of coerced child marriage.

Payzee Mahmod is now a fashion designer and campaigner to end child marriage. Both Payzee and her sister, Banaz, were pressured into marriage in the UK at just 16 and 17 years old. Banaz was later murdered at the age of 20 in a so-called “honor” killing for leaving her abusive husband.2 Payzee was eventually able to divorce her husband who was 12 years older than her – but the lasting effects of her experience of child marriage stay with her.

Despite cases like Payzee’s and Banaz’s, the law continues to leave children unprotected. In England and Wales 16- and 17-year olds are currently allowed to marry with parental consent, a legal exception that leaves children vulnerable to parental and familial coercion to enter into a marriage against their will.

That’s why we’ve joined a coalition of organizations urging the UK to protect children by making child marriage a crime.

The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill would raise the legal age of marriage in England and Wales to 18 to better protect children from the risks associated with child marriage.3 Data from the Office of National Statistics shows that the number of people getting married aged 17 and under has fallen. Just 179 of these marriages were registered in 2016 showing that as whole, the majority of society no longer wants child marriage.4 But statistics only capture part of the picture, overlooking unregistered religious or cultural marriages, or child marriages that take place abroad. Many child marriages are never reported which means that there is little data available on the true extent of all child marriage, including coerced, in the UK.5

We therefore believe that outlawing child marriage is the best way to stop coerced child marriage from happening – there is no reason to leave children unprotected from the risk associated with child marriage in today’s society.

We are urging the government to support this Bill and ensure it is given time to be properly debated. 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 marriage under target 5.3 of the SDGs.6

Since Conservative MP Pauline Latham initially introduced the Bill in 2018, it has gathered support from both Labour and Conservative parties including from current Home Secretary Priti Patel and former Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, Sarah Champion. Now is the time for all political parties to continue their support for this Bill and ensure the UK aligns itself with its international commitments.7

Often, a child is unable to recognize a marriage as forced until many years later, despite clear indicators such as:

  • A child being subjected to control, a sense of ‘ownership’ through abuse and threats, including the threat of death if they leave the marriage such as so-called “honor” killings
  • A child is exploited through non-consensual sexual activity once in a marriage
  • The inability of a child to leave the marriage safely

 

It is clear that existing laws do not go far enough. Children living in their family homes are vulnerable to being influenced and coerced into accepting a marriage. They may be victims of coercive control.

Banning child marriage will help stop putting children in a situation where they have to speak out to be safe. Instead, children will be automatically protected from the risks associated with child marriage through virtue of being under the age 18.

Payzee’s story highlights why there is a clear need to strengthen laws to protect girls from marriage:

“I was 15 and I remember my Dad asking me to get married, I giggled “I’m so young”. The next time I felt if I said no, it would damage our relationship. I didn’t comprehend at 16 that it was a life-changing decision that actually meant leaving my family and forming my own. I didn’t understand the consequences.

I remember thinking Oh My God, he looks old, he was losing his hair. I was just hoping he wouldn’t want me, that he’d say, “she’s just a baby!”

I had to quit college for a bit because my husband complained that I wasn’t caring for him, cooking for him. He said to my parents, “she needs to have a baby”. It made me feel sick.

I was 16 and I ended up pregnant. I didn’t fully comprehend it, all I knew was that I didn’t want a baby.

I did not choose child marriage, it ruined my future. It led me astray from my dreams of focussing on my education, it took away the best years of my life. I’ll never again be that innocent 16-year-old.

I am 100% backing changing the age of marriage because I can confidently say it was not an experience for a 16-year-old to go through. I have lifelong emotional scars from it and we need to put a stop to any more young women having their lives controlled like this.”8

No child should risk their lives and futures as a result of marriage. Take action and demand the UK to step up and ban child marriage to prevent stories like Payzee’s and Banaz’s from repeating themselves.

Campaign Launches

Chip in and help end modern slavery once and for all.

72
Leave a Reply

avatar
500
43 Comment threads
29 Thread replies
54 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
53 Comment authors
Mariana FerreyraJ VossSarahsusan anne BoothCarlos Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Mariana Ferreyra
Mariana Ferreyra

Dear Payzee, I´m seeing your ted talk. I am so deeply hurt for your story. I´m from Argentina. Here girls are abused and no adult will make anything to help them. Although, child marriage here is not happening up to my concern, girls enter in adult life because of other reasons, and again, many adults surrounding who will do nothing to protect them. Thanks for your testimony. Excuse my english. A long time I do not use it.

J Voss
J Voss

Be strong Mariana,

Best wishes from Sydney J

Carlos
Carlos

A coisa é ainda pior no Oriente Médio onde crianças menores de 12 anos são forçadas ao casamento e há mortes entre elas devido a violência sexual para uma criança que nada entende. Essa lei deve ir além das fronteiras do Reino Unido.

Cheryl Potter

Parents need to LISTEN to their children about ANYTHING that they saw that is WRONG such as someone beating or killing another or if by chance they saw someone raping another!!! And you DO NOT EVER, EVER ALLOW A MAN TO KIDNAP YOUR CHILDREN BY ANY MEANS!!! FIGHT FOR YOUR CHILDREN!!! AND IF YOU ALLOW A RAPIST TO KIDNAP YOUR CHILD, I HOPE YOU GO TO PRISON ALONG WITH THE RAPIST AND KIDNAPPER!!!

susan anne Booth
susan anne Booth

To continue, I know of friends who like ma are in their seventies and they married at 16 and have been happy had children and now grandchildren they have had many happy years together. Why should young people who are even more mature today than in the fifties wait for a couple of years just because you think it will stop child marriages amongst other cultures who have come to live here. It wont Why should a law that has been serving us well be changed. It shouldn’t

Sarah frances
Sarah frances

Well I’m sure we can fully agree on the fifties, for one, women didn’t get any kind of say in what they wanted for their future. Times are different now, and so they should be. Maybe things might not change massively, but at least someone is stepping up and not just being complacent. Maybe if you knew of a different life you could of had, then you would want more from life than being happy in a marriage just because you were told to be.

susan anne Booth
susan anne Booth

I married young yes but no it didn’t stop me from doing what I wanted. I continued my career in horses just as if I wasn’t married. I never lost my independence as a person, I don’t think that today young women do allow men whoever they are tell them what to do, I really do not agree with our laws being changed to suit other cultures. its completely wrong. I was never told to be anything I had an amazing life traveling the country all over meting many important people even Royalty. I had a grea

Sarah
Sarah

You were ‘treat like royalty’ And followed your career in horses…… I don’t have the energy to debate with someone who is clearly so ignorant to the rest of the world, and what state our country is actually in. What’s more infuriating is that you are still trying to argue when there are thousands of younger people trying to survive another day of abuse. Please please try and put yourself in the shoes of someone less fortunate than you.

susan anne Booth
susan anne Booth

Maybe if you took the time to read what I said properly, your response would be different I did not say I was treated like royalty, please read again. I was pointing out that even though I married so young my life was as I wanted it to be, I don’t think changing our laws will affect young people in other countries. if you feel so bad why don’t you go to wherever and preach to change their laws. not go backwards here, Young people are sexually active here at thirteen and fourteen, we wernt

Sarah
Sarah

Trust you to pick out the slight mistake I made. You got the point though? My priority is in England where I was born. I can only voice my opinion elsewhere, but at least here I can vote for what’s right/ wrong. My point is at 16 you are still a child, developing, learning, trying to understand the world. We live very differently now so yes – the world should change with modern culture. I am sorry you can’t see the way everyone else sees, I think it my be because your marriage was successful.

angela cassidy
angela cassidy

Just because you ‘think’ it worked for one person, does not mean it is suitable for ALL girls. There needs to be protection for choice otherwise this would not have been raised as an issue at all. And there is ‘happy’ and ‘accepting’. When you have no choice, you have to make the most of a bad job. Well done Ma, maybe you were one of the lucky ones, MAYBE.

susan anne Booth
susan anne Booth

Will someone tell me what the comments above have to do with the subject we are discussing. I will say this and that will be the end of it. A law that has been the law for many years with no problems that we know of you want to change, the reason because certain cultures marry their daughters at this age. OK you don’t like it but it wont stop it, they will take them back to their countries and do it anyway. in the meantime our young people cant marry just because some people don’t agree with it

Lynette Coffey

There is a difference between a marriage that a 16 or 17 year old girl or boy may enter into because it is their own choice, rather than what is being done to under aged girls in Britain, of islamic faith. They have a completely different culture than western nations and basically sell their daughters off to men they don’t know, who are often time MUCH older than they are and who treat them as property, whom they can even kill, should they choose to, in the name of so called ‘honor’ killings.

susan anne Booth
susan anne Booth

So I was right, you want to go backwards and make the law change to the marriageable age altered from 16/17 to 18. I take it that this law being changed to protect girls from different cultures and countries to ours in the Uk. I don’t agree with any girl/woman being forced into marriage at any age . Altering our law wont stop this happening they will still do it, even if they have to go abroad, there will be no stopping them. As for 16 being to young to marry, I absolutely disagree with you.

TONY GILMOUR
TONY GILMOUR

I married young 45v years ago my parents married young and my wife’s parents married young. The past doesn’t matter what matters is that we make it as difficult as possible for people to FORCE someone into a marriage they don’t want. You say that some of them will just go abroad to force the child to marry but SOME OF THEM WONT BE ABLE TO USE THAT OPTION. So preventing some of it is worth bringing in this law

Call on the UK to end child marriage

Help us reach 150,000 actions
107,723

Dear Prime Minister and all UK party leaders:

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.

Data from the Office of National Statistics shows that the number of people getting married aged 17 and under has fallen. Just 179 of these marriages were registered in 2016 showing that as whole, the majority of society no longer wants child marriage. But statistics only capture part of the picture, overlooking unregistered religious or cultural marriages, or child marriages that take place abroad. Many child marriages are never reported which means that there is little data available on the true extent of all child marriage, including coerced, in the UK.

Outlawing child marriage is the best way to stop coerced child marriage from happening – there is no reason to leave children unprotected from the risks associated with child marriage in today’s society.

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.

We are urging you to support this Bill and ensure it is given time to be properly debated.

 

We have also partnered with Change.org and 80,089 signatures have been collected there.

Freedom United will protect your privacy while updating you on campaigns, news and stories about modern slavery.

Latest Activity

  • Eleni D.,
  • Janet S.,
  • Wendy C.,
  • Patricia M.,
  • Kiki-Sunshine B.,
  • Patricia S.,
  • RITA F.,
  • Mat G.,
  • Tanya A.,
  • Rachel P.,

Campaign Partners