“Today tears of joy roll down my face because I know what this means for girls like me,” said campaigner Payzee Mahmod. Payzee leads Freedom United’s campaign calling on the U.K. to ban child marriage. As a survivor and activist, Payzee has campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness of the harms of the current legal exception that enable families to pressure children into abusive marriages.
Children will be better protected from forced marriage
We are overjoyed that finally, after years of struggle and collective effort, the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill passed unanimously, criminalizing child marriage. Previously, 16 and 17-year-olds in England and Wales were able to marry with parental or familial consent, a legal exception that left children vulnerable to being coerced into marriages against their will.
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.
With our partners at IKWRO, Forward, Karma Nirvana, Independent Yemen Group and Girls Not Brides, more than 254,000 of you in the Freedom United have taken action, consistently calling on the U.K. to ban child marriage.
Payzee’s message and our collective power
Both Payzee and her sister, Banaz, were pressured into marriage in the U.K. 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. 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.
In a Twitter thread, Payzee shared her emotions and reflections with the community as she headed to Parliament for the third and final reading of the bill:
“This journey has been an incredible one. I’ve worked with so many women who have supported me, one another and this campaign. There is no us without you all. This is for every girl.”
Speaking to France24 earlier this month, Payzee explained why a ban on child marriage is so important:
“I’m absolutely ecstatic that this is happening — it’s about time. I experienced financial abuse, I experienced mental and physical abuse, and this is the reality of child marriage. Nobody ever gave me any support or saw that this was wrong and that I was a child and I should’ve been protected”.
We did it!
254,000+ of you in the Freedom United community demanded action. You signed the petition, contacted your MPs and made sure to keep up the pressure on decision-makers. Now the bill to #SafeguardFuturesBanChildMarriage has passed, better protecting children from forced marriage in England and Wales.
We are so proud of our campaign leader and survivor advocate, Payzee Mahmod, and to the Freedom United community and partners who helped make this happen.