Back bill to ban marriage for under-18 in England and Wales, MPs urged

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The UK is undermining its international efforts to end child marriage because an exception to the law in England and Wales that allows 16 and 17-year-olds to marry with parental consent is putting children at risk, parliament will be told today.a woman wearing glasses: Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian© Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Sarah Lee/The GuardianPauline Latham MP will ask the House to back a bill criminalising child marriage and civil partnership before the age of 18. She will argue that current legislation is at odds with the legal requirement since 2013 for young people to remain in education or training until then.

She told the Guardian that banning marriage with parental consent would protect young people from being coerced into early marriage – after being groomed or because they lack the will or capacity to report a forced marriage.

Official figures of those marrying at 16 and 17 in England and Wales have fallen steadily over the years, with 43 teenage boys and 140 teenage girls marrying with parental consent in 2017. Scottish law allows marriage from age 16 without parental consent, but numbers are low, with just 118 16-19-year-olds marrying in 2019.

a person wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Farhana Raval, who was forced to marry at 16, is now campaigning to change the law in England and Wales, which allows 16- and 17-year olds to marry with parental consent.© Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian Farhana Raval, who was forced to marry at 16, is now campaigning to change the law in England and Wales, which allows 16- and 17-year olds to marry with parental consent.However, the recorded data does not reflect the number of children who are marrying in religious and customary ceremonies.

Latham said: “While these marriages are not recognised under British law, they can be just as harmful, or even more so, for the young person involved.”

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