England: Marriage age set to be raised to 18
A new private member’s bill by Conservative MP Sajid Javid would raise the age at which people can marry to 18, in an effort to tackle forced marriage.
The former chancellor’s bill would end the current regime under which 16-year-olds can marry with their parents’ consent.
His bill would make it illegal for anyone to marry under the age of 18. Currently, there is an onus on children to protest if they feel the marriage is forced, but in practice it is rare for them to do so.
In the decade to 2016 there were 3,354 marriages involving 16 and 17-year-olds. The Home Office’s forced marriage unit dealt with 574 cases involving children under 17 last year.
Mr Javid told The Times he had looked into changing the law during his tenure as Home Secretary. He said: “The British government is working tirelessly to end child marriage in the developing world and yet our own laws are permitting child marriage by the back door.”
“Indeed, when Bangladesh lowered the legal age of marriage from 18 to 16, ministers there were said to have directly pointed to our laws to justify their move. It’s clear that we must legislate to close this loophole so that vulnerable children cannot be pushed into such serious and life-changing commitments before they are ready.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “The government supports raising the legal age for marriage to protect vulnerable children and will outline its next steps in due course.”