Tory MP blasts legal age of marriage in UK as MPs back a rise to age 18

19 November 2021, 16:43

Tory MP blasts legal age of marriage in UK as MPs back a rise to age 18
Tory MP blasts legal age of marriage in UK as MPs back a rise to age 18. Picture: LBC/House of Commons

By Tim Dodd

16 and 17-year-olds are "too young" and not "mature enough" to enter into a marriage, argues Tory MP for Mid Derbyshire Pauline Latham, who has introduced a bill to raise the age to 18.

MPs have supported plans to ban child marriage in "all its forms" in England and Wales today.

The current law in England and Wales allows people to get married at 18 or, with parental consent, at 16 or 17.

The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill was given an unopposed second reading on Friday, with support coming from both the Government and opposition benches.

The Private Member's Bill was originally meant to be proposed by Health Secretary Sajid Javid, but Conservative MP Pauline Latham took the Bill over after Mr Javid was reappointed to the Cabinet in June.

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As well as raising the minimum age for marriage to 18, the Bill would also make it an offence, punishable with up to seven years' imprisonment, to carry out "any conduct for the purpose of causing a child to enter into a marriage".

It would also make it easier to prosecute parents or family members who send under-18s abroad to be wed.

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Referring to a caller's story, Shelagh said: "There's a difference between Isabella's experience at 14 being taken abroad and married off to a man of someone else's choosing three times her age... to a 16-year-old getting agreement from his or her parents to marry a 17-year-old, but do you think that is still poor legislation that needs bumping up to 18?"

Ms Latham replied: "It is inherently too young. The thing is that children now have to stay in education and training until they're 18, so how can they take on everything that a marriage [is] , which is a big commitment.

"If they cannot sign for themselves - their parents have to sign on their behalf - they're not really mature enough to make that life changing decision.

"They can't buy cigarettes til they're 18, they can't go into a pub and buy an alcoholic drink til they're 18, they can't have a tattoo til they're 18, so why on earth do we allow them to make this life changing decision?"

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