The Marriage Act 1949 and Civil Partnership Act 2004 have been amended by The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022.
The changes to the previous Acts mean that:
1. The minimum age at which a person can marry or enter into a civil partnership in England and Wales has increased from 16 to 18.
2. It is an offence for a person to cause a child under 18 to enter into a marriage before the child's 18th birthday.
3. The offence applies to marriages or civil partnership whether or not it is carried out in England and Wales.
4. Adults who facilitate marriage for anyone under the age of 18 could face up to seven years in prison as well as a fine.
The previous law posed a substantial risk to children as research has shown that child marriage is often associated with:
- Leaving education early.
- Limited career and vocational opportunities.
- Serious physical and mental health problems.
- Developmental difficulties for the children born to young mothers.
- Increased risk of domestic abuse.
The amendments to the old law will:
1. Attempt to prevent child brides being forced into matrimony.
2. Give a clear warning to those adults arranging marriages involving underage person(s).
3. Try to stop parents/family/relatives from taking children out of the country with the intention of carrying out a wedding.
Ultimately, the reforms to the previous legislations will keep vulnerable young people safe who were at serious risk given the gaps in the previous law. While the reform will not eradicate these risks entirely, it is a major step in the right direction in trying to protect and safeguard our youth!