The change in the law is a welcome step in protecting our vulnerable children in society who will have previously been forced into a ‘child marriage’. These devastating cases often may be a result of cultural or religious views firmly held by families and against the individuals’ concerned wishes. Any parties involved in the arrangement of such marriages will now face criminal charges and a lengthy prison sentence of up to seven years in jail and a fine - clear deterrents for anyone involved in the crime.
There will of course be a detrimental impact on other young individuals who freely want to formalise their relationships. Some 16 to 18-year-olds may wish to marry for various reasons, including: one party joining the army; a child being born or family reasons such as parents with terminal illness. The disappointment to some is outweighed by the need to protect other young individuals from the significant harm caused by forced marriage and we welcome this change in legislation.
The legal age of marriage and civil partnerships has been raised to 18 in England and Wales.