In 2019, we launched our campaign calling on the U.K. to pass the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill. The bill would ban child marriage in England and Wales and remove a legal exception that allowed 16 and 17-year-olds to marry with parental or familial consent, putting children at risk of being coerced into marriage.
Freedom United’s campaign is led by Payzee Mahmod, a campaigner and survivor advocate, who has been working tirelessly to bring attention to the need for a ban on child marriage in the U.K.
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 continued to leave children unprotected. In England and Wales 16- and 17-year olds were able 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 Freedom United joined a coalition of organizations urging the U.K. to protect children by making child marriage a crime.
Timeline of events:
- January 27, 2020: Just two days ahead of Payzee’s talk in Parliament, Baroness Hussein-Ece introduced the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill to the House of Lords. The Bill is to revoke parental or judicial consent which permits the marriage or civil partnership of a child and to criminalize child marriage or civil partnership under the age of 18.
- 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 U.K.
- October 2020: The bill, reintroduced by Pauline Latham MP, proceeds through the House of Commons and a second reading of the bill is due to take place in November. The Freedom United contacts U.K. MPs asking them to support the bill.
- June 11, 2021: The U.K. commits to raising the legal age of marriage to 18 in England & Wales, a crucial first step from the government.
- November 19, 2021: The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill passes its second reading with government support.
On April 27, 2022 the U.K. banned child marriage in England and Wales by passing the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill with no opposition. 254,034 in the Freedom United community signed the petition, wrote to MPs and kept up the pressure on decision-makers to ban child marriage and better protect children from forced marriage.
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.