Dr Charlotte Proudman seeks declaration that the annulment of marriage on the ground of non-consummation is incompatible with the Human Rights Act


Dr Proudman appears in the High Court, instructed by Duncan Lewis, to represent a complainant of domestic abuse and coercive control who was defending her husband’s nullity petition. Her husband applied for nullity on the grounds of non-consummation. The complainant refuted the husband’s case that they had not consummated the marriage. 

On behalf of the complainant, Dr Proudman was instructed to apply for a declaration that s.12 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 breaches Articles 8, 12 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights namely on the basis that the law is outdated and an unwanted intrusion into the private lives of spouses. The prioritisation of penile penetration is archaic and discriminatory. Dr Proudman argued that the same law does not apply to same sex spouses meaning that they cannot get an annulment on the ground of non-consummation. She also argued that a complainant of domestic abuse could not be construed as “wilfully refusing” to consummate the marriage when the abuse that she suffered in the marriage would render her unable to deliberately refuse to consummate the marriage. It is also noted that a complainant of domestic abuse cannot apply for annulment on the grounds of domestic abuse, which is in breach of her Article 8 rights. 

Dr Proudman says, “the law is woefully archaic and patriarchal, it needs modernising to bring it up to date with contemporary understandings of marriage and relationships. My concern is that the law can be used by alleged perpetrators to further the abuse of domestic abuse complainants – yet it does not afford the same right to complainants to apply to annul their marriage. This is both discriminatory and a breach of Human Rights.”

Related barristers: Dr Charlotte Proudman


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