Child marriage banned as legal age to wed officially increases to 18

Today the legal age of marriage has officially increased from 16 to 18. 

The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill, introduced to UK Parliament by MP Pauline Latham OBE, passed through Parliament and received Royal Assent (becoming law) on Thursday, April 28th, 2022. Today 16 to 17-year-olds will no longer be able to marry or enter a civil partnership under any circumstances, including with parental or judicial consent.

The Act will also expand the criminal offence of forced marriage in England and Wales to make it an offence in all circumstances to do anything intended to cause a child to marry before they turn 18. 

The implementation of the new law follows tireless campaigning from Savera UK survivor ambassador Payzee Mahmod, alongside organisations including IKWRO. Payzee’s sister, Banaz, was forced into marriage when she was aged 16. Banaz was the victim of an ‘honour’-killing after ending the violent and abusive marriage.

Payzee is also a survivor of child marriage, coerced by her parents to marry a much older man at just 16-years old. Following the murder of her sister Banaz, Payzee got divorced at 18 and planned her sister’s funeral all within one month.  

Payzee said: “I am delighted beyond words at the implementation of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill today. I have been on this journey with IKWRO and several organisations to ensure all children are protected from any form of child marriage, I have shared my personal story and my sister, Banaz’s so that people really see and understand the life long harms child marriage causes. Today we celebrate this landmark achievement and remember those who have been harmed by child marriage. 

“I want to highlight the wonderful support form so many, especially organisations like Savera UK who have backed our campaign from the beginning. Thank you, we did it!”

Afrah Qassim, Savera UK Founder and CEO, said: “Today marks a huge milestone in the fight to end all harmful practices, including child/forced marriage and ‘honour’-based abuse. Because of the incredible efforts of Payzee and the organisations she has worked with, lives have been saved and thousands have been safeguarded from child marriage. It is a historical moment and we are incredibly proud to celebrate the achievement. 

“We recognise that the journey to end harmful practices for good is far from over. We will continue to safeguard and advocate for those at risk while campaigning for change and spreading awareness among communities.”

If you are affected by forced marriage, ‘honour’-based abuse or other harmful practices, you can call the Savera UK helpline on 0800 107 0726 (weekdays 10am – 4pm).