Marriageable age

Marriageable age (or marriage age) is the general age as a right or the minimum age subject to parental, judicial, or other forms of approval at which a person is allowed by law to marry. Age and other prerequisites to marriage vary between jurisdictions, but in the vast majority of jurisdictions, the marriage age as a right is set at the age of majority. Nevertheless, most jurisdictions allow marriage at a younger age with parental or judicial approval, and some also allow adolescents to marry if the female is pregnant. The age of marriage is most commonly 18 years old, but there are variations, some higher and some lower. The marriageable age should not be confused with the age of majority or the age of consent, though, they may be the same in many places.

The 55 parties to the 1962 Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage, and Registration of Marriages have agreed to specify a minimum marriage age by statute law‚ to override customary, religious, and tribal laws and traditions. When the marriageable age under a law of a religious community is lower than that under the law of the land, the state law prevails. However, some religious communities do not accept the supremacy of state law in this respect, which may lead to child marriage or forced marriage. The 123 parties to the 1956 Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery have agreed to adopt a prescribed “suitable” minimum age for marriage. In many developing countries, the official age prescriptions stand as mere guidelines. UNICEF, an international organization, regards a marriage of a minor (legal child), a person below the age of 18, as child marriage and a violation of human rights.[1]

Until recently, the minimum marriageable age for females was lower in many jurisdictions than for males, on the premise that females mature at an earlier age than males. This law has been viewed by some to be discriminatory, so that in many countries the marriageable age of females has been raised to equal that of males.

History and social attitudesEdit

Classical antiquityEdit

In the Roman Empire, the Emperor Augustus introduced marriage legislation, the Lex Papia Poppaea, which rewarded marriage and childbearing. The legislation also imposed penalties on young persons who failed to marry and on those who committed adultery. Therefore, marriage and childbearing was made law between the ages of twenty-five and sixty for men, and twenty and fifty for women.[2] Women who were Vestal Virgins were selected between the ages of 6 and 10 to serve as priestesses in the temple of goddess Vesta in the Roman Forum for 30 years, after which time they could marry.[3]

Noble women were known to marry as young as 12 years of age,[4] whereas women in the lower classes were more likely to marry slightly further into their teenage years. [5][6] The father had the right and duty to seek a good and useful match for his children, and might arrange a child's betrothal long before he or she came of age (age of maturity).[7] To further the interests of their birth families, daughters of the elite would marry into respectable families.[8] If a daughter could prove the proposed husband to be of bad character, she could legitimately refuse the match.[9]

In Roman law, age of majority was 21 years old, age of marriage was 12 years for females and 14 years for males, and age of betrothal was 7 years for males and females. The age of lawful consent to a marriage was 12 for maidens and 14 for youths.[10]

Ancient Roman law required brides to be at least 12 years old. In ancient Roman law, first marriages to brides aged 12–25 required the consent of the bride and her father, but by the late antique period Roman law permitted women over 25 to marry without parental consent.[11]

In late antiquity, most Roman women married in their late teens to early twenties, but noble women married younger than those of the lower classes, as an aristocratic maiden was expected to be virgin until her first marriage.[12] In late antiquity, under Roman law, daughters inherited equally from their parents if no will was produced.[13] In addition, Roman law recognized wives' property as legally separate from husbands's property,[14] as did some legal systems in parts of Europe and colonial Latin America.

In 380 CE, the Emperor Theodosius issued the Edict of Thessalonica, which made Catholicism the official religion of the Roman Empire. The Catholic Church adopted Roman law into Canon law.[15]

Historically, individuals were allowed to enter into a marriage contract at a very young age. This coincided with signs of puberty: such as menstruation for a female and pubic hair for a male. In Ancient Rome, the appropriate minimum age was regarded as 14 for males and 12 for females.[16]

Post-classical historyEdit

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the rise of the Holy Roman Empire, manorialism also helped weaken the ties of kinship and thus the power of clans; as early as the 9th century in northwestern France, families that worked on manors were small, consisting of parents and children and occasionally a grandparent. The Roman Catholic Church and State had become allies in erasing the solidarity and thus the political power of the clans; the Church sought to replace traditional religion, whose vehicle was the kin group, and substitute the authority of the elders of the kin group with that of a religious elder; at the same time, the king's rule was undermined by revolts by the most powerful kin groups, clans or sections, whose conspiracies and murders threatened the power of the state and also the demands by manorial lords for obedient, compliant workers.[17] As the peasants and serfs lived and worked on farms that they rented from the lord of the manor, they also needed the permission of the lord to marry. Couples therefore had to comply with the lord of the manor and wait until a small farm became available before they could marry and thus produce children; those who could and did delay marriage were presumably rewarded by the landlord and those who did not were presumably denied that reward.[18] For example, marriage ages in Medieval England varied depending on economic circumstances, with couples delaying marriage until their early twenties when times were bad, but might marry in their late teens after the Black Death, when there was a severe labour shortage;[19] by appearances, marriage of adolescents was not the norm in England.[20]

In medieval Western Europe, the rise of Catholicism and manorialism had both created incentives to keep families nuclear, and thus the age of marriage increased; the Western Church instituted marriage laws and practices that undermined large kinship groups. The Catholic Church prohibited consanguineous marriages, a marriage pattern that had been a means to maintain clans (and thus their power) throughout history.[21] The Roman Catholic Church curtailed arranged marriages in which the bride did not clearly agree to the union.[22]

Male and female adolescents needed parental consent to marry because they were under the age of majority, 21 years old. In the 12th century, the Roman Catholic Church drastically changed legal standards for marital consent by allowing daughters over 12 years old and sons over 14 years old to marry without their parents' approval, even if their marriage was made clandestinely.[23] Parish studies have confirmed that in the late medieval period females did sometimes marry without their parents' approval in England.[24]

In the 12th century, Canon law jurist Gratian, stated that consent for marriage could not take place before the age of 12 years old for females and 14 years old for males; and consent for betrothal could not take place before the age of 7 years old for females and males, as that is the age of reason. The Church of England, after breaking away from the Roman Catholic Church, carried with it the same minimum age requirements. Age of consent for marriage of 12 years old for maidens and of 14 years old for youths were written into English civil law.[25]

The first recorded age-of-consent law, in England, dates back 800 years. The age of consent law in question has to do with the law of rape and not the law of marriage as sometimes misunderstood. In 1275, in England, as part of the rape law, the Statute of Westminster 1275, made it a misdemeanor to "ravish" a "maiden within age", whether with or without her consent. The phrase "within age" was interpreted by jurist Sir Edward Coke as meaning the age of marriage, which at the time was 12 years old.[26] A 1576 law was created with more severe punishments for ravishing a girl for which the age of consent was set at 10 years old.[27] Under English common law the age of consent apart of the law of rape was 10 or 12 years old and rape was defined as forceful sexual intercourse with a woman against her will. To convict a man of rape, both force and lack of consent had to be proved, except in the case of a girl who is under the age of consent. Since the age of consent applied in all circumstances, not just in physical assaults, the law also made it impossible for an underage girl (under 12 years old) to consent to sexual activity. There was one exception: a man's acts with his wife (females over 12 years old), to which rape law did not apply.[28] Jurist Sir Matthew Hale stated that both rape laws were valid at the same time. [29] In 1875, the Offence Against the Persons Act raised the age to 13 years in England; an act of sexual intercourse with a girl younger than 13 was a felony.[30]

There were some fathers' who arranged marriages for a son or a daughter before he or she reached the age of maturity, which is similar to what some father's in ancient Rome did. Consummation would not take place until the age of maturity. Roman Catholic Canon law defines a marriage as consummated when the "spouses have performed between themselves in a human fashion a conjugal act which is suitable in itself for the procreation of offspring, to which marriage is ordered by its nature and by which the spouses become one flesh."[31] There are recorded marriages of 2 and 3 year olds: in 1564, a three year old named John was married to a two year old named Jane in the Bishop's Court in Chester, England.

Modern historyEdit

The policy of the Roman Catholic Church, and later various protestant churches, of considering clandestine marriages and marriages made without parental consent to be valid was controversial, and in the 16th century both the French monarchy and the Lutheran Church sought to end these practices, with limited success.[32]

In most of Northwestern Europe, marriages at very early ages were rare. One thousand marriage certificates from 1619 to 1660 in the Archdiocese of Canterbury show that only one bride was 13 years old, four were 15, twelve were 16, and seventeen were 17 years old; while the other 966 brides were at least 19 years old.[33]

In England and Wales, the Marriage Act 1753 required a marriage to be covered by a licence (requiring parental consent for those under 21) or the publication of banns (which parents of those under 21 could forbid). Additionally, the Church of England dictated that both the bride and groom must be at least 21 years of age to marry without the consent of their families; in the certificates, the most common age for the brides is 22 years. For the grooms 24 years was the most common age, with average ages of 24 years for the brides and 27 for the grooms.[33] While European noblewomen often married early, they were a small minority of the population,[34] and the marriage certificates from Canterbury show that even among nobility it was very rare to marry women off at very early ages.[33]

The minimum age requirements of 12 and 14 were eventually written into English civil law. By default, these provisions became the minimum marriage ages in colonial America.[35] Marriages occurred several years earlier, on average, in colonial America than in Europe, and much higher proportions of the population eventually married. Community-based studies suggest an average age at marriage of about 20 years old for women in the early colonial period and about 26 years old for men.[36] In late 19th century and throughout the 20th century, U.S. states began to slowly raise the minimum legal age at which individuals were allowed to marry. Age restrictions, as in most developed countries, have been revised upward so that they are now between 15 and 21 years of age.[37]

Before 1929, Scots law followed Roman law in allowing a girl to marry at twelve years of age and a boy at fourteen, without any requirement for parental consent. However, marriage in Scotland at such young ages was in practice almost unknown.[38]

FranceEdit

In France, until the French Revolution, the marriageable age was 12 years for females and 14 for males. Revolutionary legislation in 1792 increased the age to 13 years for females and 15 for males. Under the Napoleonic Code in 1804, the marriageable age was set at 15 years old for females and 18 years old for males.[39] In 2006, the marriageable age for females was increased to 18, the same as for males. In jurisdictions where the ages are not the same, the marriageable age for females is more commonly two or three years lower than that for males.

Eastern EuropeEdit

In medieval Eastern Europe, the Slavic traditions of patrilocality of early and universal marriage (usually of a bride aged 12–15 years, with menarche occurring on average at 14) lingered;[40] the manorial system had yet to penetrate into Eastern Europe and had generally had less effect on clan systems there; and the bans on cross-cousin marriages had not been firmly enforced.[41]

In 17th century Poland, in the Warsaw parish of St John, the average age of women entering marriage was 20.1, and of men, 23.7. In the second half of the eighteenth century, women inthe parish of Holy Cross married at 21.8, while men at 29.[42]

In Russia, before 1830 the age of consent for marriage was 15 years old for males and 13 years old for females[43](though 15 years old was preferred for females, so much so that it was written into the Law Code of 1649)[44]. Teenage marriage was practiced for chastity. Both the female and the male teenager needed consent of their parents to marry because they were under 20 years old, the age of majority. In 1830, the age of consent for marriage was raised to 18 years old for males and 16 years old for females[45] (though 18 years old was preferred for females). The average age of marriage for females was around 19 years old. [46][47]

Marriageable age as a right vs exceptionsEdit

In the majority of countries, 18 is the marriageable age as of right. However, most of these countries allow those younger than that age to marry, usually with parental consent or judicial authorization. These exceptions vary considerably by country. The United Nations Population Fund stated:[48]

In 2010, 158 countries reported that 18 years was the minimum legal age for marriage for women without parental consent or approval by a pertinent authority. However, in 146 [of those] countries, state or customary law allows girls younger than 18 to marry with the consent of parents or other authorities; in 52 countries, girls under age 15 can marry with parental consent. In contrast, 18 is the legal age for marriage without consent among males in 180 countries. Additionally, in 105 countries, boys can marry with the consent of a parent or a pertinent authority, and in 23 countries, boys under age 15 can marry with parental consent.

In recent years, many countries in the EU have tightened their marriage laws, either banning marriage under 18 completely, or requiring judicial approval for such marriages. Countries which have reformed their marriage laws in recent years include Sweden (2014), Denmark (2017), Germany (2017), Luxembourg (2014), Spain (2015), Netherlands (2015), Finland (2019) and Ireland (2019). Many developing countries have also enacted similar laws in recent years: Honduras (2017), Ecuador (2015), Costa Rica (2017), Panama (2015), Trinidad & Tobago (2017), Malawi (2017).

The minimum age requirements of 12 years old for females and 14 years old for males were written into English civil law. By default, these provisions became the minimum marriage ages in colonial America. This English common law inherited from the British remained in force in America unless a specific state law was enacted to replace them. In the United States, as in most developed countries, age restrictions have been revised upward so that they are now between 15 and 21 years of age.[49]

In Western countries, marriages of teenagers have become rare in recent years, with their frequency declining during the past few decades. For instance, in Finland, where in the early 21st century underage youth could obtain a special judicial authorization to marry, there were only 30–40 such marriages per year during that period (with most of the spouses being aged 17), while in the early 1990s, more than 100 such marriages were registered each year. Since 1 June 2019 Finland has banned marriages of anyone under 18 with no exemptions.[50][51]

Relation to the age of majorityEdit

The marriage age as a right is usually the same with the age of majority which is 18 years old in most countries. However, in some countries, the age of majority is under 18, while in others it is 19, 20 or 21. In Canada for example, the age of majority is 19 in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut, and marriage under 19 in these provinces requires parental or court consent (see Marriage in Canada). In USA for example, the age of majority is 21 in Mississippi and 19 in Nebraska and requires parental consent. In many jurisdictions of North America, by marriage minors become legally emancipated.[52]

By countryEdit

AfricaEdit

Country Without parental or judicial consent With parental consent With judicial consent Notes
Male Female Male Female Male Female
Algeria 19 None (Article 7 of the Family Code[53])
Angola[54] 18 16 15 -
Benin[55] 18 None
Botswana[56] 21 18 -
Burkina Faso[57] 20 20 17 18 15
Burundi[58] 21 18 -
Cameroon[59] 21 18 15 -
Central African Republic[60][61] 22 18 22 18 13
Chad[62] 21 18 -
Democratic Republic of Congo[63][64] 18
Djibouti[65] 18 None
Egypt[66] 18
Equatorial Guinea[67] 23 14 12 -
Eritrea[68] 18
Ethiopia[69] 18
Gabon[70] 21 18 15 -
Guinea-Bissau[71] 18
Guinea-Conakry[72] 21 18 -
Ivory Coast[73] 21 20 18 -
Kenya 18 As per section 4, Marriage Act 2014.[74]
Lesotho[75] 21 18 16 -
Liberia[76] 21 18 18 16 -
Libya[77] 20 None
Mauritius[78] 18 16 -
Madagascar[79] 18
Mali[80] 18 16 18 16 15
Mauritania[81] 18 None
Morocco[82] 18 None
Mozambique[83] 18 18 - In July 2019, Mozambique passed a law to ban child marriage outright. It was signed by president on 14 October 2019 and became a law after being published in "Boletim da República" on 22 October.[84]
Namibia 21[85] 18 None Under the age of 18 with the written permission of the Minister or any staff member in the Public Service authorized by the Minister.[86]
Niger[87] 21 18 15 -
Nigeria[88] 18
Republic of the Congo[89] 21 18 21 18 None
Rwanda[90] 21
São Tomé and Príncipe[91] 18 16 14 -
Senegal[92] 18 16 -
Sierra Leone[93] 18
Somalia[94] 18 16 -
South Africa 18 15 None
Sudan Puberty 10 The Personal Status Law of Muslims, 1991, allows the marriage of a girl from puberty. Ten years-olds can be married with judicial authorization. The Marriage of Non-Muslims Act of 1926 sets the age of marriage at 13 for non-Muslim girls, and 15 for non-Muslim boys.[99]
South Sudan 18 [100]
Swaziland[101] 21 18 16 -
Tanzania[102] 18 15 14
Togo[103][104] 18 16
Tunisia[105] 18
Uganda[106] 18
Zambia[107] 21 16 -
Zimbabwe 18 In 2016, the Constitutional Court ruled that the Marriage Act, which permitted girls (not boys) aged 16 to be married with their parents’ consent, was unconstitutional and recognised 18 years as the legal minimum age of marriage.[108]

AmericasEdit

Country Without parental or judicial consent With parental consent With judicial consent Notes
Male Female Male Female Male Female
Antigua and Barbuda[109] 18 15 - Section 25 of The Marriage Act reads: "A marriage solemnized between persons either of whom is under the age of fifteen shall be null and void."[110]
Argentina 18 16 None (Art 403 and 404 of Código Civil y Comercial de la Nación).[111]
Bahamas 18 15 None The Marriage Act (1908) provides no minimum age with judicial consent; the age with parental consent is 15 (Marriage Act, Sec. 20(2), 50 and Schedule M).[112]
Barbados 18 16 - [113]
Belize 18 16 - with parental consent (The Belize Marriage (Amendment) Act of 2005 increased the minimum age from 14 to 16).[114]
Bolivia 18 16 (Article 139 of the new Civil Code of 2014).[115]
Brazil 18 16 [116]
Canada 18/19 16 Marriage in Canada is governed by both federal and provincial law. The minimum age to marry is set at 16 by a federal statute, the Civil Marriage Act, which states: "No person who is under the age of 16 years may contract marriage."[117] In addition, the provinces may impose procedural requirements for the marriage of a minor who is over 16 but under the age of majority (18 or 19), such as requiring parental consent or permission from a judge. The Criminal Code also prohibits marriage under the age of 16: "Everyone who celebrates, aids or participates in a marriage rite or ceremony knowing that one of the persons being married is under the age of 16 years is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years."[118]
Chile 18 16 - [119]
Colombia 18 14 - [120]
Costa Rica 18 [121]
Cuba 18 16 14 - [122]
Dominica 18 16 - [123]
Dominican Republic 18 16 - [124]
Ecuador 18 Since 2015, the minimum age is 18.[125]
El Salvador 18 Since 2017, the minimum age is 18.[126]
Grenada 21 16 - [127]
Guatemala 18 16 [128][129]
Guyana 18 16 - [130]
Haiti 18 15 - [131]
Honduras 18[132] Since 2017, the minimum age is 18. Before 2017 females could marry from 16, with parental consent.[132]
Jamaica 18 16 - [133]
Mexico 18 16 14 - Varies by state. The General Law on the Rights of Children and Adolescents 2014 establishes 18 years as the general age of marriage, but allows girls to marry at 14 and boys at 16 with parental consent. At state level, as of May 2017, 22 states have made marriage before 18 illegal, while another ten allow it under certain circumstances.[134]
Nicaragua 18 16 - under the new 2014 Código de Familia, Articles 54, 57(a) and 58(c)[135]
Panama 18 Since 2015, the minimum age is 18; prior to that date girls could marry from age 14 years and boys from age 16, with parental consent.[136]
Paraguay 20 16 - [137]
Peru 18 16 - [138]
Puerto Rico 21 18 None (Younger parties may obtain license in case of pregnancy or birth of child), and 18 with parental consent.[139] Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States.
Saint Kitts and Nevis 16 [140]
Saint Lucia 18 16 - [141]
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 16 15 16 15 - [142]
Suriname 21 17 15 - [143]
Trinidad and Tobago 18 Since 2017, the minimum age is 18.[144]
United States 18 in most states
19 in Nebraska
21 in Mississippi
Varies by state The minimum marriage age requirements of 12 years old for females and 14 years old for males were written into English civil law. By default, these provisions became the minimum marriage ages in colonial America. English common law inherited from the British remained in force in America unless a specific state law was enacted to replace them. In the United States, as in most developed countries, age restrictions have been revised upward so that they are now between 15 and 21 years of age.[145]
Uruguay 18 16 - [146][147]
Venezuela 18 16 Articles 18, 46, 59–65 of the Civil Code,[148] decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice [149]

AsiaEdit

 
The sign painted on a building in a village in Hubei, China, informs of the marriageable age in the country (22 for men, 20 for women).
Country Without parental or judicial consent With parental consent With judicial consent Notes
Male Female Male Female Male Female
Afghanistan 18 16 18 15 18 15 15 for females with the consent of the father or with judicial approval. Under the Civil Code, Article 70 sets the marriageable age at 18 for males and 16 for females. However, Article 71 creates an exception to the above, stating: "(1) Where the girl does not complete the age provided under Article 70 of this law, the marriage may be concluded only through her father or the competent court. (2) The marriage of a minor girl whose age is less then [sic] 15 shall never be permissible."[150] In practice, however, marriage often occurs at much younger ages, as different ethnic groups in Afghanistan have various traditions, many accepting marriage at young ages.[151]
Bangladesh 21 18 None Bangladeshi law provides penal sanctions for the contraction of under-age marriages, although such unions are not considered invalid.[152] Despite the law, child marriage rates in Bangladesh are among the highest in the world. Every 2 out of 3 marriages involve child marriages.[153]
Bhutan 18 [154]
Brunei 18 14[155] Minimum legal age for marriage without parental consent varies across states/provinces, ethnic groups, religious groups or forms of marriage.[156]
Cambodia 18 [157]
China 22 20 22 20 China is the only country to have the highest set marriageable age for men.[158]
East Timor 17 16 [159]
Hong Kong 21 16 [160]
India 21 18 21 18 If any partner(s) engages in marriage at a younger age, (s)he can ask for the marriage to be declared void. A recent recommendation by the Law Commission aims to equalize the marriage age for males and females to 18.[161] Official policy automatically declares marriages under 15 as "null and void", while marriages at the age of 14 or 15 are "voidable". In 2012, the high court declared that Muslim women can marry at 15.[161] Additionally, the report declares that "In spite of these legal provisions, child marriage is still widely practiced and a marriage solemnized in contravention of these provisions is not void even under the new PCMA, 1929, the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and also under the Muslim Law."[161]. However India is one of the 10 countries with the highest rates of child marriage. [162]
Indonesia 21 19 None [163][164].
Iran 18 15 15 13 15 13 [165][166] Ways around these regulations include temporary marriages (Nikah mut‘ah).[167] With the permission of a court girls may marry at a younger age; during 2010 as many as 42,000 children aged between 10 and 14 were married,[168] and 716 girls younger than 10 had wed.[169]
Iraq 18 15 15 with judicial permission if fitness, physical capacity and guardian's consent (or unreasonable objection on part of guardian) are established. (These rules may have been revised after Saddam Hussein's fall.[citation needed])[170]
Israel 18 16 Minimum marriageable age increased from 17 to 18 in November 2013. Family courts able to recognise marriage for 16 and above in special cases.[171]
Japan 20 18 16 [172]
Jordan 18 16 18 16 [173]
Kazakhstan 18 17 16 [174]
Kuwait 17 15 [175]
Kyrgyzstan 18 17 Local self-government agencies may, at the request of the parties entering the marriage, provided that justifiable reasons exist, lower the marriage age. The marriage age may not be lowered by more than 1 year.[176]
Laos 18 15 [177]
Lebanon 18 17 17 15 15 9 9 with judicial permission for Shi'a.[citation needed] 18 or 17 and 16 or 15 with judicial permission for Druze.[178]
Macau 18 16 Articles 1478, 1479 and 1482 of the Civil Code
Malaysia 21 18 16 A special marriage licence granted by the Chief Minister must be obtained for female sixteen (16) years and above but under the age of eighteen (18) years.[179]
Maldives 18 16 According to custom, the minimum age for marriage is 15. The Law on the Protection of the Rights of the Child discourages marriage before the age of 16.[180]
Myanmar 18 18 18 [181]
Nepal 20 20 (Civil Code 2017, Section 70 and 71) Marriage may be concluded if both have attained twenty years of age.

Notwithstanding anything contained in clause (b) of sub-section (1), nothing shall bar the conclusion, or causing the conclusion of, a marriage within the relationship that is allowed to marry in accordance with the practices prevailing in their ethnic community or clan[182]

North Korea 18 17 18 17 [183]
Oman 18 While the legal minimum age is 18, "custom still recognises marriages below the age of 18".[184]
Pakistan 18 16 in most provinces
18 in some provinces, including Punjab and Sindh[185][186]
18 16/18 Despite the law[187] against child marriage, the practice is widespread. According to two 2013 reports, nearly 20% of all marriages in Pakistan involve girls less than 18 years old.[188][189] However, in Punjab and Sindh, severe punishments are given for marriages before the age of 18.[190][191]
Palestine 18 None Since 2019 marriage below 18 is allowed only with religious court permission[192]
Mongolia 18 [193]
Philippines 21 18 -[194]
Qatar 18 16 None No minimum age for marriage with parental consent, and permitted only when in conformity with religious and cultural norms and with permission of a competent court.[195]
Russia 18 16 May vary in different regions.
Saudi Arabia 18 [196]
Singapore 21 18 None
South Korea 19 18
Sri Lanka 18 However, the parties must have a Qadi's permission to marry before contracting into marriage if they are Muslims.[197]
Syria 18 Thomson Reuters Foundation notes that child marriage occurs from 13 years.[198]
Taiwan 20 18 16 18 for males and 16 for females with statutory agent's consent.[199][200]
Tajikistan 18 17 [201]
Thailand 20 17 [202]
Turkmenistan 16 [203]
United Arab Emirates 18 None Mature minors allowed to marry with judicial permission[204]
Uzbekistan 18 17 18 17 [205]
Vietnam 20 18 20 18 16 [206]
Yemen 15 None HRW notes no legal minimum age for marriage under Yemeni law, and UNSD notes that child marriage is permitted where "such marriage will entail some clear benefit."[207]

EuropeEdit

The marriageable age as a right is 18 in all European countries, with the exception of Andorra and Scotland where it is 16 (for both sexes). Existing exceptions to this general rule (usually requiring special judicial or parental consent) are discussed below. In both the European Union and the Council of Europe the marriageable age falls within the jurisdiction of individual member states. The Istanbul convention, the first legally binding instrument in Europe in the field of violence against women and domestic violence,[208] only requires countries which ratify it to prohibit forced marriage (Article 37) and to ensure that forced marriages can be easily voided without further victimization (Article 32), but does not make any reference to a minimum age of marriage.

Country Without parental or judicial consent With parental consent With judicial consent Notes
Male Female Male Female Male Female
Albania 18 [209][210]
Andorra 16 14 [211]
Armenia 18 17 16 The age was set at 18 for both sexes in 2012,[212] prior to that date it was 17 for females and 18 for males.[213] However, marriage at age 17 is allowed with parental consent, and at age 16 with parental consent and the condition that the other intending spouse is at least 18.[214]
Austria 18 16 - 16 with parental consent but the other partner must be at least 18.
Azerbaijan 18 17 17 in special cases with judicial authorization. (Article 10 of the Family Code[215]). The marriageable age for females was raised in 2011 to 18, equalizing it to that of males; prior to that date it was 17.[216]
Belarus 18 [217]
Belgium 18 None With parental consent, serious reasons are required for a minor to marry; without parental consent, the unwillingness of the parents has to constitute an abuse.[218]
Bosnia and Herzegovina 18 16 [219]
Bulgaria 18 16 The new 2009 Family Code fixes the age at 18, but allows for an exception for 16 years olds, stating that "Upon exception, in case that important reasons impose this, matrimony may be concluded by a person at the age of 16 with permission by the regional judge". It further states that both persons wanting to marry, as well as the parents/guardians of the minor, must be consulted by the judge. (Chapter 2, Article 6)[220]
Croatia 18 16
Cyprus 18 16 16 with parental consent, if there are serious reasons for the marriage.[221][222]
Czech Republic 18 16 Article 672 of Act No. 89/2012 Coll. the Civil Code (which came into force in 2014) states that the court may, in exceptional cases, allow a marriage of a 16 year old, if there are serious reasons for it.[223] Moreover, a minor can marry if he or she has been granted full capacity by a court decision as given by Article 37 of the Civil Code.
Denmark 18 [224]
Estonia 18 15 15 with court permission.[225][226]
Finland 18 In Finland, all marriages under 18 – is completely legally banned with no exemptions since June 1, 2019.[227]
France 18 16 Under 18 permission from a court and both parents. In France, the legal age for marriage was equalized for both sexes at 18 in 2006,[228] but in exceptional cases a court may allow marriage at younger ages.[229]
Georgia 18 Since 2017, marriage under 18 is prohibited.[230]
Germany 18 The minimum age was explicitly set to 18 on July 22, 2017.[231] (Before this day, a Family Court could issue an exception for 16–18 year-olds if one party was over 18.) Marriages with a spouse under 16 are legally void. For a 16–17 year old spouse the marriage is repealed.[232][233]
Gibraltar 18
Greece 18 None Under 18 requires court permission, which may be given if there are serious reasons for such a marriage[221][234]
Hungary 18 16 16 with authorization from the guardianship authority[235]
Iceland 18 None Under 18 with parental consent and permission of the Ministry of the Interior.
Ireland 18 Since 2019, marriage under 18 is prohibited.[236]
Italy 18 16
Latvia 18 16
Liechtenstein 18 None [237]
Lithuania 18 15 None Minors can only marry below 15 if they are pregnant females with court permission.[238]
Luxembourg 18 None New laws of 2014 fixed the marriageable at 18 for both sexes; prior to these regulations the age was 16 for females and 18 for males. The new laws still allow both sexes to obtain judicial consent to get married under 18.[239]
North Macedonia 18 16 16, with court approval for male and female, their consent and their parents consent is needed
Malta 18 16 16 with parental consent, specifically for "a person who is subject to paternal authority or to tutorship". (However if this is unattainable, the court can provide the consent.)[240]
Moldova 18 16 16, if there are valid reasons, with both judicial and parental permission[241]
Montenegro 18 16 [242]
Netherlands 18 Marriage under 18 is prohibited. Exceptions were removed by a change in the law in 2015.[243]
Norway 18 16 16 with consent from parents (guardian) and permission from the County Governor. The County Governor may only give permission when there are 'special reasons for contracting a marriage'.[244][245] In 2018, the unicameral Parliament of Norway passed a bill on the first reading to ban all child marriage under 18 with no exemptions at all. The bill has to pass again second reading before it can get royal assent by the King of Norway to go into law.[246][247]
Poland 18 16 The Family and guardianship code Art.10.§1. A person who is not over eighteen cannot marry. However, for the brave reasons[clarification needed], the guardianship court may allow a woman who turns sixteen to marry, and the azocollicity[clarification needed] shows that marriage will be consistent with the decorating of the family. §2. The annulment of a marriage of a man under 18 years of age and a woman who is under sixteen or without permission from the court has made a marriage after the age of sixteen, but before the age of eighteen can demand any spouses.[clarification needed][248]
Portugal 18 16
Romania 18 16 16, if there are valid reasons, with both judicial and parental permission, as well as medical approval.[249]
Russia 18 16 16 in special circumstances, but different rules apply in some regions.[250]
San Marino 18 16 [251]
Serbia 18 16
Slovakia 18 16 16 with court consent, with a serious reason such as pregnancy.[252]
Slovenia 18 None Under 18 may be approved by the Social Work Center if there are "well founded reasons" arising upon the investigation of the situation of the minor. (Art 23, 24 of the Law on Marriage and Family Relations).[253]
Spain 18 16 [254]
Sweden 18 Not possible to marry under the age of 18 since July 1, 2014.[255]
Switzerland 18 To be able to marry, the prospective spouses must have reached 18 years of age and have the capacity of judgement.[256]
Turkey 18 17 16
Ukraine 18 16 Age was equalized at 18 for both sexes in 2012, but courts may still grant permission from age 16 if there are special reasons.[257]
United Kingdom 18 in most jurisdictions
16 in Scotland
16

England and Wales: 16 with parental consent or the permission of the court.[258]

Scotland: 16[259]

Northern Ireland: 16 with parental consent (with the court able to give consent in some cases).[260]

OceaniaEdit

Country Without parental or judicial consent With parental consent With judicial consent Notes
Male Female Male Female Male Female
Australia 18 16 16 with permission from a court and both parents (only granted in exceptional circumstances).[261] Also in its external territories.
Fiji 18 16 - [262]
Kiribati 21 18 - [263]
Micronesia 18 16 18 16 - [264]
Nauru 18 16 18 16 - [265]
New Zealand 18 16 16 with permission from a court and both parents.[266][267]
Niue 21 19 18 15 - [268]
Palau 18 16 18 16 - [269]
Papua New Guinea 21 [270]
Samoa 21 19 18 16 - [271]
Solomon Islands 18 15 - [272]
Tonga 18 16 - [273]
Tokelau 21 19 18 16 - [274]
Tuvalu 21 16 - [275]
Vanuatu 21 18 - [276]

By religionEdit

JudaismEdit

Classical AntiquityEdit

In ancient Israel, men twenty years old and older would become warriors[277] and when they would get married, they would get one year leave of absence to be with their wife.[278]

Before the end of Second Temple Judaism, Rabbis set the age of marriage for every Israelite at 18 years old. [279] Females were expected to marry by 20 years old and males were expected to marry by 24 years old.

In late antiquity, males and females were expected to be married by 20 years old in teenage marriage.[280] Rabbis estimated the age of maturity from about the beginning of the thirteenth year with women and about the beginning of the fourteenth year with men.[281]

A large age gap between spouses, in either direction, is advised against as unwise.[282] A younger woman marrying a significantly older man, however, is especially problematic: marrying one's young daughter to an old man was declared, by the Sanhedrin, as reprehensible as forcing her into prostitution.[283]

Post-Classical periodEdit

In Rabbinic Judaism, males cannot consent to marriage until they reach the age of 13 years and a day and have undergone puberty and females cannot consent to marriage until they reach the age of 12 years and a day and have undergone puberty. Males and females are considered minors until the age of twenty. After twenty, males are not considered adults if they show signs of impotence. If males show no signs of puberty or do show impotence, they automatically become adults by age 35 and can marry.[284][285]

Marriage involved a double ceremony, which included the formal betrothal and wedding rites.[286]

The minimum age for marriage was 13 years old for males and 12 years old for females but formal betrothal could take place before that and often did. Talmud advises males to get married at 18 years old or between 16 years old and 24 years old.[287]

A ketannah (literally meaning "little [one]") was any girl between the age of 3 years and that of 12 years plus one day;[288] she was subject to her father's authority, and he could arrange a marriage for her without her agreement.[288] However, after reaching the age of maturity, she would have to agree to the marriage to be considered as married.[289][290]

Modern periodEdit

Jewish people follow the law of the land that they live in. In modern Israel, the general age for marriage is 18 years old for males and females but with judicial consent 16 year old males and females can marry.

CatholicismEdit

Christ stated a man (adult male) is to marry a woman (adult female). Saint Paul stated that a man (adult male) is to marry a female past the flower of her youth and ancient Catholics understood that to be over 20 years old[291] and Roman Catholics understand that to be menarche (12-14 years old)[292].

Catholic canon law later on adopted Roman law. In Roman law, 21 years old was the age of majority and the minimum age of marriage was 12 years old for females and 14 years old for males.

The Roman Catholic Church raised the minimum age of marriage to 14 years old for females and to 16 years old for males in 1917 and lowered the age of majority to 18 years old in 1983.

blank Without parental or ordinary officer consent With parental consent With ordinary officer consent Notes
Male consent Female consent Male consent Female consent Male consent Female consent
Roman Catholic Church 18 18 16 14 16 14 Diriment impediment (can. 1083 § 1).[293] Conferences of Bishops can adopt a higher age for liceity[294] (§ 2). Marriage against the worldly power's directive need permission by the Ordinary for liceity (can. 1071 § 1 no. 2), which in case of sensible and equal laws regarding marriage age is regularly not granted. The permission by the Ordinary is also required in case of a marriage of a minor (i.e. under 18 years old) when his parents are unaware of his marriage or if his parents reasonably oppose his marriage (can. 1071 § 1 no. 6).

Higher ages set by Conferences of BishopsEdit

Male consent Female consent Notes
Canada 18 [295]
England and Wales 16 [296]
Gambia 18 16 [297]
Liberia 18 16 [297]
New Zealand 16 [295]
Nigeria see note Each bishop has the authority to set a higher prohibitive minimum age.[298]
Philippines 21 18 [299]
Sierra Leone 18 16 [297]

IslamEdit

Golden AgeEdit

Sunni and ShiaEdit

Hanafi and Ja'fari schools of classical Islamic jurisprudence interpret the "age of marriage", in the Quran (24:59;65:4), as the beginning of puberty.

'Büchler and Schlater mention that the schools of Islamic jurisprudence (madhaahib) set the following marriageable ages for boys and girls:[300]

Male consent Female consent Notes
Hanafi 12 9 Sunni
Jafari 15 9 Shia

Marriages were traditionally contracted by the father or guardian of the bride and her intended husband.[301]

SunniEdit

Shaf'i, Hanbali, and Maliki schools of classical Islamic jurisprudence interpret the "age of marriage", in the Quran (24:59), as completion of puberty. For Shaf'i, Hanbali, and Maliki schools of Islamic jurisprudence, in Sunni Islam, the condition for marriage is physical (bulugh) maturity and mental (rushd) maturity.

'Büchler and Schlater mention that the schools of Islamic jurisprudence (madhaahib) set the following marriageable ages for boys and girls: [302]

Male consent Female consent Notes
Shafi'i 15
Hanbali 15
Maliki 17

Büchler and Schlater state that "marriageable age according to classical Islamic law coincides with the occurrence of puberty. The notion of puberty refers to signs of physical maturity such as the emission of semen or the onset of menstruation"[303]

According to the Shafi'i book of Jurisprudence Reliance of the Traveler by Ahmad Ibn Naqib Al-Misri (died 1368 A.D.): No one may marry her to another after she has reached puberty without her express permission, no matter whether the guardian is the father, father's father, or someone else.m3.15 No guardian may marry a girl to someone who is not a suitable match (def: m4) without her acceptance and the acceptance of all who can be guardians (def: m3.7).[304]

Modern periodEdit

Marriages are traditionally contracted by the father or guardian of the bride and her intended husband.[305]

The 1917 codification of Islamic family law in the Ottoman empire distinguished between the age of competence for marriage, which was set at 18 for boys and 17 for girls, and the minimum age for marriage, which followed the traditional Hanafi mininum ages of 12 for boys and 9 for girls. Marriage below the age of competence was permissible only if proof of sexual maturity was accepted in court, while marriage under the minimum age was forbidden.

During the 20th century, most countries in the Middle East followed the Ottoman precedent in defining the age of competence, while raising the minimum age to 15 or 16 for boys and 13–16 for girls. Marriage below the age of competence is subject to approval by a judge and the legal guardian of the child. Egypt diverged from this pattern by setting the age limits of 18 for boys and 16 for girls, without a distinction between competence for marriage and minimum age.[306]

Many senior clerics in Saudi Arabia have opposed setting a minimum age for marriage, arguing that a girl reaches adulthood at puberty.[307]

However in 2019 Members of the Saudi Shoura Council in 2019 approved fresh regulations for child marriage that will see to outlaw marrying off 15-year-old children and force the need for court approval for those under 18. Chairman of the Human Rights Committee at the Shoura Council, Dr. Hadi Al-Yami, said that introduced controls were based on in-depth studies presented to the body. He pointed out that the regulation, vetted by the Islamic Affairs Committee at the Shoura Council, has raised the age of marriage to 18 and prohibited it for those under 15.[308]

HinduismEdit

Dharmaśāstra (Dharmasutras) state that girls should be married after they have attained puberty.[309]

Baha'i FaithEdit

In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the age of marriage is set at 15 for both boys and girls. It is forbidden to become engaged before the age of 15.[310]

See alsoEdit

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