Ministers have been urged to ban children from marrying at the age of 16.
If a child aged 16 or 17 wants to get married, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland they can currently do so with parental consent. In Scotland, the legal age for marriage is 16.
Tory MP Pauline Latham has now asked the government to consider ‘fixing’ this ‘anomaly’, having already outlawed forced marriages.
However, Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom said it was unlikely the law would be reviewed in the near future.
Addressing the Commons, Ms Latham said: ‘We outlawed forced marriages in this country, but could we have a debate on children of 16 still being able to be married with the consent of their parents instead of waiting until they’re 18? Because that seems to be an anomaly that we should be fixing.’
Mrs Leadsom replied: ‘I think you raise a question that many people have concerns about, and that is about the safety of our children until they reach an age where they can make decisions for themselves.
‘I think it’s been a very long-standing law that young people can marry from the age of 16, and I don’t think that that’s likely to be reviewed in the near future.’
The organisation Girls Not Brides warns that this ‘legal loophole’ means child marriage – and potentially forced marriage – is still sanctioned in the UK.
‘In some communities across the UK this [loophole] can result in forced child marriage, whereby parents can consent on behalf of their children,’ the group warns.