LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Britain must scrap a legal loophole allowing child marriage “by the back door”, lawmakers said ahead of the introduction of a bill in parliament on Wednesday to raise the minimum age to 18.
They said the current law, which allows marriage at 16 with parental consent, sabotaged girls’ futures and condoned child abuse.
The loophole also undermines Britain’s global efforts to end child marriage in other countries, campaign groups said.
“Child marriage is child abuse,” former chancellor Sajid Javid told BBC radio before presenting the bill, which has cross-party support.
“People think this is often something that just happens in developing countries. It doesn’t. It’s happening right here … it has to stop,” he said, adding that thousands of minors had been coerced into marriages in Britain in the last decade.
The government has also said it is committed to lifting the minimum age to 18.
“It’s a big step in the right direction. We’re celebrating this moment,” campaigner Payzee Mahmod told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Mahmod, who was married at 16, said girls who wed young were pulled out of school and often subjected to marital rape and domestic abuse.
Girls from South Asian and Middle Eastern backgrounds are seen as most at risk of early marriage in Britain because having relationships outside marriage is often considered shameful.
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