From 27 February 2023, the legal age of marriage in England and Wales has been raised from 16 to 18, with no exceptions.
What does this mean?
This means that individuals will need to be aged 18 or over to get married, regardless of whether they have parental or guardian consent.
The change in the law applies to all religious and civil marriages, including those which are conducted in places of worship that are not ‘legally binding’.
Previously, the legal age of marriage in England and Wales was 16, with individuals aged 16 and 17 able to marry with the consent of their parents or legal guardians.
However, there were concerns that this system was open to abuse, and that young people were being coerced into marriage against their will.
It will now be an offence to enter a marriage with anyone under 18, with sentences of up to seven years in prison.
How could this impact young people?
The change in the law is part of the Government’s commitment to tackling forced marriage and protecting vulnerable young people – especially preventing violence against women.
It is hoped that the new law will make it more difficult for young people to be coerced into marriage, and that it will provide greater protection for those who are at risk.
The change has been welcomed by many campaigners and organisations, who have been calling for reform for several years.
They argued that young people are not mature enough to make such a significant decision and that early marriage can have a negative impact on their physical and mental health, education, and future employment prospects.
Some religious groups have expressed concern about the impact of the new law on their traditions and practices.
It is likely to have a significant impact on the lives of young people and their families and is a welcome step towards protecting vulnerable individuals and preventing forced marriages.
For more information on this significant change, get in touch with us.