MPs to debate increasing age of marriage in UK to 18

MPs are currently debating whether to increase the minimum age for marriage in the UK to 18 in a bid to help prevent forced marriages.

Currently, the legal age of marriage is 18, but 16 and 17-year-olds are allowed to get married as long as they get their parents’ permission.

In 2017 there were 1,200 cases of forced marriage reported by the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) meaning that the current laws have done little to stop it taking place.

Forced Marriage was made illegal in Britain in 2014 and carries a maximum sentence of 7 years, but the first conviction for forced marriage was not secured until 2018.

According to one forced marriage prevention charity, around 80 per cent of forced marriages takes place abroad, with many 16 and 17-year-old children taken abroad during school holidays and forced into arranged marriages.

The FMU has claimed that since 2012, between 1,200-1,400 forced marriage cases were logged every year, across more than 90 countries with Pakistan making up the largest share with around a third (439 cases) during 2017, followed by Bangladesh and Somalia.

However, these figures are the only officially recorded ones meaning that the problem is expected to be much higher. Charity ‘Karma Nirvana’ reported they received 13,000 calls during 2017 that related to forced marriage.

MP Pauline Latham said: “Children have to be in school or educational training until they are 18 now, so how could they get married, they’re not adults.

“Children are taken out aged 16 and they come back married and their parents say they’ve got consent.

“Whereas if it was 18, they might have managed to get to university, they might have got a job after they’ve finished training and they might be stronger to say no to their parents.”