Safeguard Futures: End child marriage

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My name is Payzee. I was 15 when my dad first asked me to get married – I giggled “I’m so young”. The next time, I felt if I said no it would damage our relationship. I didn’t comprehend at 16 that it was a life-changing decision that actually meant leaving my family and forming my own. I didn’t understand the consequences.

Both my sister Banaz and I were pressured into marriage in the UK at just 16 and 17 years old. Banaz was later murdered at the age of 20 in a so-called “honour” killing for leaving her abusive husband. Whilst I was eventually able to divorce my husband who was 12 years my senior, the lasting effects of my experience of child marriage stay with me.

Despite this, current UK law allows 16 and 17-year olds in England and Wales to marry with parental consent, a legal exception that leaves children vulnerable to being coerced by their parent into marrying against their will.

That’s why I’m calling for marriage under 18 in England and Wales to be a crime.

Outlawing child marriage is the best way to stop coerced child marriage from happening – there is no reason to leave children unprotected from the risks associated with child marriage in today’s society, when only 0.07% of registered marriages are with under 18s.

I remember thinking Oh My God, he looks old, he was losing his hair. I was just hoping he wouldn’t want me, that he’d say, “she’s just a baby!”.

I had to quit college for a bit because my husband complained that I wasn’t caring for him, cooking for him. He said to my parents, “she needs to have a baby”. It made me feel sick.

I did not choose child marriage, it ruined my future. It led me astray from my dreams of focusing on my education, it took away the best years of my life. I’ll never again be that innocent 16-year-old.

Alongside Freedom United and Girls Not Brides UK Co-Chairs: IKWRO, Karma Nirvana, Forward, and Independent Yemen Group, I am 100% backing changing the age of marriage.

I can confidently say it was not an experience a 16-year-old should go through. I have lifelong emotional scars from it and we need to put a stop to any more young women having their lives controlled like this.

Join me in calling on the UK to #SafeguardFutures #BanChildMarriage.