U.K. Home Office

U.K. expected to outlaw child marriage in coming weeks

Forced Marriage

In the U.K., the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill, which seeks to criminalize child marriage and will better protect children from forced marriage, is expected to pass into law in the coming weeks.

Under current law in England and Wales, 16 and 17-year olds are 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.

Why this bill is needed

Payzee Mahmod 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.

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. 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.

Payzee Mahmod explained to France24 why this bill 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”.

Since Conservative lawmaker Pauline Latham initially introduced the bill in 2018, it has gathered support from both Labor and Conservative parties, including current Home Secretary Priti Patel and former Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities Sarah Champion. 

Pauline Latham said:

“I’m hoping it will have a bit of a domino effect. It had never really occurred to me before that we did have child marriage. But we do… and once this bill goes through it’ll stop […] It’s fantastic legislation and it will transform the life chances of so many young people because they’ll be able to finish their education.

Forced marriage, a global issue

More than 252,000 of you in the Freedom United community have taken action calling on the U.K. to raise the minimum legal age of marriage to 18 in England and Wales. This step forward could help spur changes around the world where those under 18 are still allowed to marry – including most U.S. states.

We are close to tackling coerced child marriage in the U.K. Payzee’s story highlights why there is a clear need to strengthen laws to protect children from marriage. Be part of the change, add your voice to the campaign today!

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