The government has pledged their commitment to changing the marriage law in England & Wales by raising the minimum age at which a person can get married to 18.
At what age can you get married in the United Kingdom
At present, it is possible for 16- and 17-year olds to marry if they have their parents’ consent. This has been the case since the Ages of Marriage Act 1929. Whilst the minimum age is the same in Scotland, there is no requirement for parental consent.
Why is the legal age for marriage changing?
Activists have campaigned to close the “legal loophole” which allows under-18s to marry with parental or judicial consent. This loophole, it is argued, can and has been exploited in order to force under-18s to marry as the onus is on the child to protest. Over 25% (199 cases) of Home Office’s Forced Marriage Unit cases involved individuals under 18 years old in 2020. However, these figures do not include purely religious or cultural ceremonies.
This proposed change is aimed at protecting young, and in some cases, vulnerable children (aged 16 – 17 years) who are at risk of being pressured into a marriage. Hopefully, the pressure will be abated at it will simply be illegal for young people below the age of 18 to marry.
Some say that the minimum age has not moved with the times. It was set in 1929 when cohabiting and pregnancy outside of marriage was socially unacceptable. Campaigners say this is “out of date and in need of revision”.
Could there be a potential conflict created by increasing the minimum legal age of marriage to 18?
Careful consideration will need to be given to the fact that 16-year olds are legally entitled to have sex. This may place individuals in a conflict between the law and their own religious, cultural or social views which dictate no sex before marriage.
What happens now?
It is understood that Ministers are ready to back the proposed change in the law once a Bill is introduced to Parliament.
This isn’t the first time this proposal has been considered. In 2018, MP Pauline Latham put forward the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) (No.2) Bill which hasn’t move passed the First Reading stage. Similarly MP Sarah Champion advocate the increase in minimum age in 2019.
Watch this space.
*Disclaimer: While everything has been done to ensure the accuracy of the contents of this article, it is a general guide only. It is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be sought in relation to the particular facts of a given situation. This article was accurate at time of publication, on 13th of July 2021.