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Read the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission response to the Department of Finance Consultation on Marriage Law.

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NIHRC response to the Department of Finance Consultation on Marriage Law

Last Updated: Monday, 21 February 2022

Date produced February 2022.

Below is a summary of the recommendations.

You can also download the full document through the links provided.


2.12 supports the proposal to amend the Marriage Order 2003 so that belief marriage is placed on an equal statutory footing with religious marriage, in accordance with Article 9 and Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

2.17 recommends that the Department of Finance develops specific statutory criteria to define belief groups and religious groups. Any guidance produced should be subject to further consultation with key stakeholders.

2.18 recommends that any new proposal by the Department to amend marriage law and/or policy in NI is subject to a comprehensive human rights impact assessment which outlines any potential interference with Article 9 ECHR, Article 12 ECHR and Article 14 ECHR in particular.

3.7 recommends that the Department of Finance introduce legislation to repeal all legal provisions permitting the marriage of children in Northern Ireland and increase the minimum age for marriage to 18 years, for both girls and boys.

3.19 advises that the Department of Finance is required to screen all legislation for compliance with Protocol Article 2.

3.20 recommends that the Department of Finance ensure that Protocol Article 2 is considered throughout the development and implementation of any subsequent legislation or policy in relation to Marriage Law.

3.25 recommends that government departments collaborate with statutory bodies and other relevant actors to improve data collection for monitoring the prevention and elimination of child, early and forced marriage.

3.30 advises that, under current laws, children are particularly vulnerable to forced marriage and recommends that preventative and protection efforts must be strengthened, including by sensitising parents on the need for full and free consent of their daughter or son, to her or his marriage. Other measures should include research, awareness-raising, education, and training of professionals.

3.33 advises that the right to marry under Article 12 European Convention on Human Rights is subject to domestic legislation. European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence indicates that an obligation for marriages contracted outside the jurisdiction to respect the legal marriageable age, would not alone amount to a denial of the right to marry.

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