Today, the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 received Royal Assent. This law, which I sponsored, will protect all children in England and Wales from the scourge of child marriage.
The Act removes the exception where children could legally marry between 16 and 18 with the consent of their parents, and most importantly, criminalises those who seek to arrange child marriages in England and Wales. All those who arrange marriages involving children in England and Wales, or involving English or Welsh children anywhere in the world, will face prison sentences of up to 7 years.
I am delighted that this legislation, which I have campaigned on for over 5 years, has passed through all its parliamentary stages and become law. It has been a privilege to work with inspiring campaigners, including survivors of child marriage like Payzee Mahmod and Farhana Raval.
I am also grateful to Government Ministers and colleagues from all parties who have supported my Act through the whole process.
Child marriage is a scourge on our society, and it is crucial that we end this practice, including with the deterrent effect of criminal sanctions, in order to safeguard children’s futures, and also to fulfil our international obligations on child marriage.
The UK is signed up to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which includes a commitment to end child marriage in all forms. This Act satisfies the UK’s commitment in relation to England and Wales.