A new law to make child marriage in England and Wales illegal has been backed by the MP for Redditch Rachel Maclean.
MPs recently voted to approve Pauline Latham MP’s Government backed Private Member’s Bill which will raise the minimum age of marriage from 16 to 18.
The Bill is one step closer to becoming law after passing its Third Reading in the House of Commons. This means that it has now passed all of its stages in the Commons, and will head to the House of Lords for final approval.
Once it becomes law, all marriages involving children in England and Wales will be banned, and those who arrange them can face up to 7 years behind bars. The Bill also covers cases where children are taken abroad to be married.
Until now, there was no way of criminalising people who arrange child marriages – unless it was possible to prove that they were forced, which is very rarely the case.
As Minister for Safeguarding, Rachel led the work on behalf of the Home Office to ensure the Bill passed through the House of Commons with Government support. She also worked on the Bill with Pauline Latham MP and charities.
Rachel said: “I don’t believe any child should be getting married at 16 or 17 and taking on that responsibility. It is our duty as a civilised society to allow them to develop to maturity without thrusting adult roles on them too early.
“The laws of marriage in this country date back to 1929, and while we have outlawed forced marriage, children of 16 and 17 can still get married with their parents’ permission. This leads to many girls ending up in forced marriages in all but name – robbing them of their childhood, education and life chances.
“Once this Bill becomes law, it will no longer be possible for 16 and 17 year olds to have any kind of marriage, including a religious or cultural one, in England and Wales.
“It will properly protect vulnerable children – very often girls and mostly young girls – who have, unfortunately, suffered the experience of being coerced into marriage without the use of force.”