On the 27th of February, the Marriage and Civli Partnership (Minimum Age) Act became law, after being introduced in early 2022. This makes it a criminal offence to allow children under the age of 18 to marry, and would come with a prison sentence of up to 7 years.
While in previous years it was an offence to force marriage onto someone, this was focused around coercion, where as now it has been broadened to any marriage for minors, even certain traditional ceremonies that would still be seen as marriage by the partner and their family (but have no binding in UK Law)
Sarah Dines (minister for Safeguarding) has called forced marriage an “Abuse of human rights which denies vulnerable children the freedom to learn, grown and thrive,” and studies undertaken have indicated that child marriage can lead to a level of poor education and sometimes even ill health, with the wives being encouraged to drop out of school and start a family. The UN is aiming to have stamped out the practice by 2030, with the Executive Director of Unicef telling us how “The world has awakened to the damage child marriage causes to individual girls, to their future children, and to their societies,” and it hopeful that “This new global programme will help drive action to reach the girls at greatest risk – and help more girls and young women realize their right to dictate their own destinies.”