LONDON: The minimum age for marriage in the UK should rise to 18 to protect people forced into abusive relationships, a minister has said. Pauline Latham, Conservative MP for Mid Derbyshire, said a change in British law would protect children from dangers posed by others and also influence other countries to end child marriage. Introducing the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill, Ms Latham said: ‘In this country young people have to stay in education or training until they’re 18 but they can marry before that at the age of 16, but only with parental consent.
Conservative MP Pauline Latham said a change in British law would protect children from dangers posed by others ‘Unicef believes that marriage before the age of 18 is a fundamental violation of human rights I agree and I believe it should be banned in this country.’ Ms Latham, who has received support from Tory and Labour MPs for the Bill, also said: ‘Marriage is a major life decision for which children are not emotionally and physically ready. ‘Setting the minimum age of marriage at 18 provides an objective rather than subjective standard of maturity which safeguards a child from being married when they are not physically, mentally or emotionally ready. ‘Many would argue there should be a minimum level of maturity and free and full consent about whether, whom and when to marry. ‘The International Human Rights Conventions on women’s rights and children says countries should end the practice of enabling child marriage below 18, thus the UK is violating these same commitments.’ Ms Latham introduced the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill in the Commons Her bill is being supported by MPs from both major parties, including the Conservative former international development secretary Priti Patel and Sarah Champion, the former shadow equalities minister. However, Conservative MP Kevin Foster (Torbay) said the proposed Bill raised several questions, telling MPs: ‘I accept the points that are made and it’s obvious there’s a point strongly made around the idea that you can’t just get married at 16 or 17 without an element of consent. ‘This is a very long-standing legal age, and for me there are all sorts of arguments about what should be at 16 and what should be at 17.’ Mr Foster went on: ‘It’d be at 16 you could decide legally, if we didn’t change the age of (sexual) consent, the life-changing decision to have children yet you couldn’t actually get married until you were 18. ‘I think that would be a bit of an oddity in our law.’