Child bride seeks end of underage marriage in UK

family law

A girl who was married at 14 has urged the British government to outlaw the practice for 16 and 17 year olds.

Born and raised in Afghanistan, the girl was only 13 when her family told her that she had been engaged to a relative of hers who lived in London. She was bitterly opposed but was forced into the marriage anyway. She had never met the man who became her husband until just days before the ceremony, which took place in her home country.

She and her new husband lived apart for two years until she moved to England on a spousal visa. The application said she was 23, although she was actually only 16 years old. While in London, she was treated like a slave by her husband’s large family. She was regularly beaten and forced to cook for all of them while being told that her efforts were not good enough.

Speaking to The Times, she said:

“They were throwing the food in the bin in front of me . . . I did not eat for two days.”

She was threatened with deportation by her husband if she called the Police about her treatment, but eventually decided that was a risk worth taking. If she ended up back in Afghanistan she believed her father would kill her, but thought “dying is better than this life”.

Since she contacted the Police, she has been in the care of social services and now hopes for a new start by attending college. She also believes that the government “should change the law, because marrying before 18 takes lots of opportunities from your life”.

Currently, 16 and 17 year-olds can marry in England and Wales as long as they have permission from their parents. In Scotland, the legal age is 16 years old and parental consent is not required. Several charities and campaign groups have long pushed for under-18 marriages to be outlawed. One such organisation is Girls Not Brides UK, who claim that parental consent can often amount to coercion.

Photo by Nick Nguyen via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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1 comment

Andrew - September 4, 2017 at 10:01pm

So this organisation wants to prevent people from marrying who are old enough to consent to sexual intercourse? How would that work?
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I hope they do not want to raise the age of consent too because that definitely would not work!
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This young lady is welcome here but perhaps she should postpone suggesting how we shoujld organise our laws until she has a little more experience of British society.

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