Under-18 marriages should be banned in UK, say charities Currently, 16 and 17-year-olds can marry if they have parental consent. (iStock Image)
CAMPAIGNERS want a ban on under-18s marrying in England and Wales as they claim it contributes to sexual violence and domestic abuse.
In a letter to prime minister Boris Johnson, charities have warned of the “invisible but thriving issue” of marriage by parental consent in the UK.
The 16 and 17-year-olds can marry if they have parental consent. In Scotland the legal age to marry is 16.
A spokesperson said the government was “listening carefully to the debate on the legal age of marriage”.
“Attempting to coerce someone into a relationship can be prosecuted under existing laws, while we made forced marriage a specific offence in 2014.”
The campaigners say parental consent often amounts to coercion, with teenage girls being married off to older men who they have never met.
According to figures from the ONS, 43 teenage boys and 140 teenage girls were married with parental consent in 2017.
In the letter, the campaigners claim the forced marriage law is not enough to protect minors.
“Unacceptably, the onus is on the child to secure their own protection under forced marriage law by speaking out against their own family and community, which can have dangerous consequences and understandably many children are too terrified to do,” the letter says.