Europe

Marriage ban on under-18s to end ordeal of child brides

Martin Lewis reveals how to claim marriage tax allowance

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But campaigners claim this enables sexual abuse with young women forced to wed against their will. Former Chancellor Sajid Javid is introducing a private member’s bill next week that will make it illegal for anyone to marry below the age of 18. Mr Javid said 16-year-olds being forced to wed was “child abuse”. He added that the Government “is working tirelessly to end child marriage in the developing world and yet our own laws are permitting child marriage by the back door.

“When Bangladesh lowered the legal age of marriage from 18 to 16, ministers there were said to have directly pointed to our laws to justify their move. We must legislate to close this loophole so vulnerable children cannot be pushed into such serious and life-changing commitments.”

Previous backbench bids to raise the age to 18 have failed. Justice ministers have indicated they will back this bill and give it Commons time, all but guaranteeing it will be passed. It is likely to win cross-party support.

Mr Javid, who is of Pakistani heritage, said arranged teenage marriages might be exploited by foreign nationals to obtain British citizenship.

He said: “I’ve seen this in the community I was raised in – young girls expected to enter into marriage far before they were ready, with painful consequences.”

Mr Javid is expected to challenge Nicola Sturgeon to change Scotland’s law too. A Westminster change would mean marriages of under-18s in Scotland would not be recognised in England and Wales.

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