February 27, 2023, by Katie Andrews

New law raising the legal age of marriage to 18 in England and Wales – expert comment

Dr Helen McCabe, Associate Professor in Political Theory and expert in forced marriage at the University of Nottingham, comments on the news that the legal age of marriage in England and Wales has been raised to 18 years old.

She said: “The change in the law around age of marriage is very welcome. It brings England and Wales into line with international law and conventions, and closes a loophole some parents were exploiting to force their children to marry. We may have a romantic image of 16-year-olds marrying (like Romeo and Juliet), but the reality, as brave survivors have come forward to attest today, is often very, very different.

“This said, much work will need to be done to ensure that all stakeholders, especially front-line staff in services such as social work, the police, and education, are aware of the change in the law, and how best to support children still facing a forced marriage. A new “toolkit” from the UK government’s Forced Marriage Unit is a welcome start. It is not clear that all stakeholders know about the change in the law, or how it will affect the communities with whom they work, and for whose well-being they have a responsibility. There is also the problem of marriage at 16 still being legal in Scotland (without the need for parental consent) and Northern Ireland (with parental consent), making the law different across the UK.

“However, it is still an important step forward in the campaign to end child, early and forced marriage that, from today, children will be protected by the law if someone wants them to marry.”

Dr McCabe has previously written a blog for Justice Everywhere when the Bill was introduced to Parliament, read it here: http://justice-everywhere.org/general/ending-child-marriage-in-the-uk/

Read more about Dr McCabe’s research here: https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/politics/people/helen.mccabe

Contact the Press Office to arrange interviews with Dr McCabe at pressoffice@notttingham.ac.uk or on 0115 9515798.

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