MP Pauline Latham will step in to adopt Sajid Javid’s private member bill to end child marriage after her promotion to health secretary.
Javid introduced a bill raising the legal minimum age for marriage to 18 in England and Wales to parliament earlier this month, but he can’t push it forward because it’s no longer a second.
Latham, who has campaigned to end child marriage for more than three years and introduced a similar bill in the previous parliamentary session, will guide Javid’s bill into the statute books.
She said: “The current law on the age of marriage is almost a century old and was as much about protecting property rights as it is about love. The legal vacuum that allows 16 and 17-year-olds to marry with the consent of their parents is now used more frequently as a mechanism of abuse. “
Latham added: “The UK has made international commitments to end child marriage, and this bill will ensure that the country sets the example to eradicate the practice around the world.”
Javid said child marriages are associated with dire outcomes, including an increased risk of domestic violence, sexual violence, and so-called “honor-based” violence.
He said: “As far as I am concerned, child marriage is child abuse. No one is pressuring their 16-year-old son to get married for good reasons. I have seen testimonies from young women describing how their parents tried to marry them off to pay off debt, strengthen family ties, and prevent them from being with people they loved, especially those of the same sex. “
In 2019, more than a quarter of cases, 363, dealt with by the UK Forced Marriage Unit, involved children under 18 years of age.
The Justice Ministry wrote to child marriage activists earlier this month assuring them that the government would support raising the legal minimum age of marriage to 18.
Payzee Mahmod, child marriage survivor and activist in IKWRO, said: “It is a really positive step, but it is crucial that child marriage also becomes a crime so that young people are protected from all types of marriage, including unregistered religious and cultural marriages, and to prevent men from Brits marry children from abroad. “