New Legislation in force in England and Wales banning child marriage

New legislation banning child marriage has come into force in England and Wales today, 27th February 2023. The new legislation now makes it illegal and a criminal offence to exploit vulnerable children by arranging for them to marry, under any circumstances whether or not force is used.

This means that 16 and 17 year olds will no longer be allowed to marry or enter a civil partnership, even if they have parental consent.

The change will crack down on forced marriages which can cause lasting damage on a child and forms part of the government’s continued commitment to tackle violence against women and girls. However, child marriage is often associated with domestic abuse towards girls, it can also relate to young males. This means that those found guilty of arranging any child marriage face sentences of up to 7 years in prison.


Forced marriage and arranged marriage

Forced marriage and arranged marriage are two distinct practices, although there can be some overlap between them. Here’s the difference:

Arranged marriage is a practice where two people, typically with the help of their families, agree to marry each other based on a variety of factors, such as compatibility, family background, education, and personal preferences. The families of the couple may arrange meetings or introduce them to each other, but ultimately, the decision to marry is left up to the individuals involved. In an arranged marriage, both parties have the ability to consent to the union and can choose to accept or reject the proposal.

Forced marriage, on the other hand, is a marriage where one or both parties are married against their will or without their consent. In a forced marriage, one or both parties may be coerced, threatened, or manipulated into marrying someone they do not want to marry. This can be due to various factors, such as cultural or religious beliefs, family pressure, or social expectations. Forced marriage is a violation of human rights and is not a legitimate form of marriage.

In summary, the key difference between arranged marriage and forced marriage is that in an arranged marriage, both parties give their consent, while in a forced marriage, one or both parties are forced into the marriage without their consent.

What schools need to know and do:

  • Key staff need to be aware of the new legislation, including pastoral teams
  • A review of all relevant policies to include the new legislation
  • Include the new legislation in the schools curriculum
  • Check training matrix to ensure staff are up to date with Honour Based Abuse (HBA) training

Helpful resources


Our updated, interactive whole school HBA: FGM, Forced Marriage & Brest Ironing Awareness training provides a clearer understanding of cultural and practical knowledge of HBA, helps staff and volunteers to recognise the signs and indicators of pupils at risk and understand responsibilities and reporting duties of child marriage and FGM. Training is available for onsite delivery or virtually. Register your interest here

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions about the above or we can be of any assistance with your Safeguarding needs.

Call 01274 752299 or email

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Rachel Priestley

Rach has a background in Business Development and Administration, gaining much of her knowledge and experience through her 19 year career with the NHS working within the executive office, community services and public health. 

Before moving on from the NHS, Rach supported the Chief Executive, the Chairman and the Trust Board of a local NHS Care Trust, which managed Children’s Services. Her responsibilities spanned across HR, Finance, Governance, Compliance, Risk, systems and processes, and internal training. Rach also supported the Children’s Safeguarding Lead with safeguarding investigations.

In 2017, she left the NHS to pursue a successful self-employed career supporting business to grow, with flexible business development and administration support, which she continues to do on a part-time basis.

Rach is in house trained, and is passionate about delivering outstanding services and enjoys working as part of the safeguarding team to achieve a common goal.

In her own time, she loves spending time outside, and long walks with the two family dogs. 

Shelley Armstrong

Shelley joined Safeguarding Support in 2020 as an experienced AET-qualified freelance trainer, and now enjoys working across the business, keeping clients as up to date as possible with the ever changing challenges facing safeguarding children in education.

Whilst we aim to simplify safeguarding, Shelley’s passion is to ensure engagement, pride and confidence through training and support. Shelley enjoys applying the competencies gained in different industries and environments to researching, designing, and developing materials for those with the responsibility to safeguard children, and in return has enormous respect for their commitment.

Her experience across the private business sector brings commercial skills to training and her background in psychology and counselling ensure courses are designed and delivered with the learner in mind.

Shelley lives in Yorkshire and enjoys walking her springer spaniels – come rain or shine!

Abigail Havon

Abigail is an experienced AET qualified trainer who began her safeguarding career in the charity sector.  There she was a regional manager and part of the safeguarding leadership team.  She was involved in writing policies and procedures, developing, and delivering training and supporting staff and volunteers to work 121 with children struggling with their literacy. 

She has worked in a variety of business environments gaining experience in different sectors. She has always chosen roles that call for collaboration and communication to bring the best out in people and projects to completion.  Abigail passionately believes that empowering educators to work together as part of a safeguarding team will lead to better outcomes for children and young people. 

As part of the SSL training team her role focuses mainly on delivering virtual training. 

Abigail lives near the Jurassic Coast and enjoys long walks and caring for her jungle of houseplants.  

Carol Stephenson

Carol has spent her entire career teaching in Bradford primary schools. Most recently she was Head Teacher of a large, outstanding, multi-academy trust, inner-city
school where she gained Local Leaders of Education (LLE) status.

Carol is a highly experienced Designated Safeguarding Lead and safeguarding Governor, with an extensive range of expertise, skills and knowledge. It was through this depth of experience that she became a dedicated representative of Bradford Children’s Safeguarding Board. In June 2019, Carol was awarded a Bradford Safeguarding Champions lifetime achievement award 2019 for her continued work in safeguarding the children of Bradford.

Carol is in-house trained and is NSPCC certified to deliver Child Protection and Safeguarding training.

In her spare time, Carol enjoys working on her allotment.