The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 has received Royal Assent, increasing the minimum age of marriage and civil partnerships in England and Wales from 16 to 18 years. The Act makes these changes by amending the Marriage Act 1949 and Civil Partnership Act 2004.
Prior this Act, individuals aged 16 or 17 could enter into a marriage or civil partnership with parental or judicial consent. The new Act raises the age with the aim of combatting child marriage – statistics reveal that in 2018, 147 individuals aged 16 or 17 were married in England and Wales, however this only includes registered ceremonies.
The amendment is in accordance with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s recommendation that no one should be able to marry before they reach the age of 18, even with parental consent. Additionally, the UN Sustainable Development Goals require all countries to “eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilations by 2030.”
Further, the Act makes it an offence if a person:
‘carries out any conduct for the purpose of causing a child to enter into a marriage before the child’s eighteenth birthday (whether or not the conduct amounts to violence, threats, any other form of coercion or deception, and whether or not it is carried out in England and Wales)’
The Bill can be viewed here.