Marriageable age


Marriageable age

Marriageable age (or marriage age) is the age at which a person is allowed to marry, either as of right or subject to parental or other forms of consent. The age and other requirements vary between countries, but generally it is set at 18, although most jurisdictions allow marriage at slightly younger ages with parental and/or judicial approval, or in case of pregnancy. The marriage age should not be confused with the age of majority or the age of consent, or the actual age at first marriage in a particular society.

55 countries are parties to the Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage, and Registration of Marriages, which requires them to specify a minimum marriage age by statute law, thus overriding customary, religious and tribal laws.

When the marriageable age under a law of a religious community is lower than that of the state ("country"), the state law prevails. However, some religious communities do not accept the supremacy of State law in this respect.

Contents

History and social attitudes

Traditionally, across the globe, the age of consent for a sexual union was a matter for the family to decide, or a tribal custom. In most cases, this coincided with signs of puberty, menstruation for a woman and pubic hair for a man.[1]

In Ancient Rome, it was very common for girls to marry and have children shortly after the onset of puberty.

The first recorded age-of-consent law dates back 800 years: In 1275, in England, as part of the rape law, a statute, Westminster 1, 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 of age.[2]

In the 12th century Gratian, the influential founder of Canon law in medieval Europe, accepted age of puberty for marriage to be between 12 and 14 but acknowledged consent to be meaningful if the children were older than 7. There were authorities that said that consent could take place earlier. Marriage would then be valid as long as neither of the two parties annulled the marital agreement before reaching puberty, or if they had already consummated the marriage. It should be noted that Judges honored marriages based on mutual consent at ages younger than 7, in spite of what Gratian had said; there are recorded marriages of 2 and 3 year olds.[1]

The American colonies followed the English tradition, and the law was more of a guide. For example, Mary Hathaway (Virginia, 1689) was only 9 when she was married to William Williams. Sir Edward Coke (England, 17th century) made it clear that "the marriage of girls under 12 was normal, and the age at which a girl who was a wife was eligible for a dower from her husband's estate was 9 even though her husband be only four years old."[1]

Reliable data for when people would actually marry is very difficult to find. In England for example, the only reliable data on age at marriage in the early modern period comes from records which involved only those who left property after their death. Not only were the records relatively rare, but not all bothered to record the participants' ages, and it seemed that the more complete the records are, the more likely they are to reveal young marriages. Additionally, 20th and 21st centuries' historians have sometimes shown reluctance to accept data regarding young ages of marriage, and would instead explain the data away as a misreading by a later copier of the records.[1]

By country

The following is an incomplete list of marriageable ages in various countries. The list is current, and does not treat the topic in history.

Africa

  • Algeria: 21 for males and 18 for females, lower with judicial permission if necessity or benefit is established.[3]
  • Egypt: 18 for males and 18 for females, the age was raised in 2008 from 16 to 18 for females.[4]
  • Ethiopia: 18 for females, 18 for males.[5]
  • Kenya: 16 under the Marriage Act.[6]
  • Libya: 20, lower with judicial permission on grounds of benefit or necessity and with wali's agreement.[7]
  • Madagascar: 18 for males, 17 for females.[8]
  • Mali: 18 or 15. (proposed by the Malian Family Code)
  • Morocco: 18.[9] (This is not always followed in rural areas and many judges do not uphold this law and let women younger than 18 marry.)
  • Nigeria: 18[5]
  • Senegal: 20 for males, 16 for females[10]
  • Somalia: 18; 16 for females with guardian's consent. Court may grant exemption from minimum age requirements in case of necessity.[11]
  • South Africa:
    • For a marriage under the Marriage Act, 1961, parental consent is required for the marriage of a party under the age of majority,[12] which was formerly 21 but is now 18.[13] The special consent of the Minister of Home Affairs is also required for the marriage of a girl under the age of 15 or a boy under the age of 18.[14]
    • Under the Civil Union Act, 2006, which allows for same-sex or opposite-sex marriages, both parties must be 18 or older.[15]
    • Under the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act, 1998, a customary marriage entered into after the passage of the act will only be recognised if both parties were 18 or older.[16]
  • Sudan: Puberty, with requirement for willing consent of both parties.[17]
  • Tanzania: 18 for males and 15 for females, 14 with court permission if specific circumstances make marriage appear desirable. Penal Code provides that persons of "African or Asiatic descent" may marry or permit marriage of a girl under 12 in accordance with their custom or religion if marriage is not intended to be consummated before she is 12.[18]
  • Tunisia: 20 for males and 17 for females, lower with judicial special permission for pressing reasons and on the basis of a clear interest for both spouses.[19]
  • Zimbabwe:The Marriages Act [Chapter 5:11]Under this legislation, a man may marry at the minimum age of 18 while a woman may marry at the minimum age of 16.[20]

Asia

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)
  • Afghanistan: 18 for males and 16 for females, more than half of marriages involve females under 16.[21]
  • Armenia: 18 for males, 17 for females.
  • Azerbaijan: 18 for males, 17 for females. 17 or 16 correspondingly in special cases.[22]
  • Bangladesh: 21 for males and 18 for females, lunar calendar; penal sanctions for contracting under-age marriages, though such unions are not considered invalid.[23]
  • Brunei: No minimum marriage age specified.[24]
  • Cyprus: 18, 16 with parental and ecclesial consent.
  • People's Republic of China: 22 for males, 20 for females.[25]
  • Georgia: 18 but 14 with parental consent.
  • Hong Kong: 21, 16 with parental consent.[26]
  • India: 21 for males and 18 for females.[27] If any partner(s) engages in marriage at a younger age, (s)he can ask for the marriage to be declared void / annulled. A recent recommendation by the Law Commission aims to equalize the marriage age for males and females to 18,[28] automatically declares marriages under 16 as "null and void", while marriages at the age of 16 or 17 are "voidable"[28]
  • Indonesia: 19 for males and 16 for females, younger ages with parental consent [29]
  • Iran: 18 for male, 16 for female[30]\
  • Iraq: 18, 15 with judicial permission if fitness, physical capacity and guardian's consent (or unreasonable objection on part of guardian) are established. (May or may not have been revised after Saddam Hussein's fall.)[31]
  • Israel: 18 for males and 17 for females.[32]
  • Japan: 20, 18 for males and 16 for females with parental consent.[33]
  • Jordan: 16 for males and 15 for females, lunar calendar; court permission required for females under 18 to marry men older by 20 years or more.[34]
  • Kazakhstan: 18, in special cases 16 years with parental consent.[35]
  • Korea: 18 with parental consent.
  • Kuwait: No minimum marriage age identified; capacity to marry requires parties to be of age (puberty) and of sound mind, however, no notarisation or registration of marriage permitted where female has not reached 15 years or male 17 years.[36]
  • Kyrgyzstan: 18[37]
  • Lebanon: 18 for males and 17 for females; scope for judicial discretion on basis of physical maturity and wali's permission from 17 for males and 9 for females; real puberty or 15/9 with judicial permission for Shi'a; 18/17 or 16/15 with judicial permission for Druze.[38]
  • Malaysia: 21, 18 with parental consent. Muslim girls under 16 can marry with the permission of sharia authorities, and some girls as young as 14 have been permitted to marry.[39]
  • Maldives: 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[40]
  • Nepal: 21 for males and 18 for females without parental permission, and 18 for males and 16 for females with parental permission.[41]
  • Pakistan: 18 for males, 16 for females.[42]
  • Palestinian territories: 16 for males and 15 for females, lunar calendar.
  • Mongolia : 18 [43]
  • Philippines: 18. If any spouse is 18–20 years and the consent of "parental" authority is not met, marriage may be prevented or annulled by any party that demands it.[44] On the other hand, Muslim marriages in the Philippines is based on the Shari'a: 15 yrs for males and as for females, the onset of puberty to age 15, whichever comes first.[45]
  • Russia: 18, 16 in special circumstances; may vary in different regions.
  • Saudi Arabia: None currently, legislation for age 18 is being considered.[46]
  • Singapore: 21, 18 with parental consent, below 18 with special marriage license.
  • Sri Lanka: 18. However, Muslims can be excluded from this regulation because the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act of 1951 states that a girl must be 12 years of age or have a Quazi's permission to marry before contracting into marriage. This is applicable only for Muslims in Sri Lanka.[47]
  • Syria: 18 for males and 17 for females; judicial discretion for males of 15 and females of 13; judge may withhold permission for marriage if court finds incompatibility in age between betrothed parties.[48]
  • Republic of China (Taiwan): 20 as the age of majority[49] generally. 18 for males, 16 for females with parental consent.[50]
  • Thailand: 17 [51]
  • Turkey: 17, 16 in special circumstances with court approval.[52]
  • Uzbekistan 18 for males, 17 for females. 17 and 16 correspondingly in special conditions.[53]
  • Vietnam: 20 for males, 18 for females.
  • Yemen: In practice, "Yemeni law allows girls of any age to wed, but it forbids sex with them until the indefinite time they’re 'suitable for sexual intercourse'."[54] Following the widely publicised divorce of a 10 year-old girl in 2008, there have been public and parliamentary efforts to raise the age to 17 or 18.[55][56][57]

Europe

  • Albania: 18 for men, 16 for women [58]
  • Armenia: 18 for males, 17 for females. [59]
  • Austria: 18, 16 with parental consent but the other partner must be 18 or older.[60]
  • Azerbaijan: 18 for males, 17 for females. 17 or 16 correspondingly in special cases.[22]
  • Belarus: 18 [61]
  • Belgium: 18, 16 with parental and judicial consent, but permission is only granted in "extreme" situations such as pregnancy.[62] [63]
  • Bulgaria: 18, 16 with parental consent.
  • Croatia: 18, 16 with parental consent.
  • Cyprus: 18 [64]
  • Czech Republic: 18, 16 with court consent.
  • Denmark: 18, 15 requires an exemption named "Kongebrev" (historical: "letter [from the] king [by a a exemption]"). Today, local authorities may give approval if the couple has their own home. 24 between a Dane and a foreigner[65]
  • Estonia: 18, 15 with parental or court consent. [66]
  • Finland: 18, under 18 with the consent of the ministry of justice in extraordinary circumstances, in which case parents or other guardian must be heard, but actual parental consent is not required.
  • France: 18
  • Georgia: 18 but 14 with parental consent.
  • Germany: 18 [67]
  • Greece: 18, 16 with consent from both parents and court permission.
  • Hungary: 18, 16 with parental consent.
  • Iceland: 18, the Ministry of the Interior may permit the marriage of younger persons but parental consent is also required.
  • Ireland: 18, people below 18 can marry with the court's permission [68]
  • Italy: 18, 16 with court consent.
  • Latvia: 18, 16 with court and/or parental permission.
  • Lithuania: 18, 15 with court permission, minors can only marry below 15 if they are pregnant females with court permission [69]
  • Netherlands: 18, 16 with parental consent, under 16 with personal permission from the queen.
  • Norway: 18, 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'.[70][71]
  • Poland: 21 for men, 18 for women, 18 for men and 16 for women with parental approval or judicial approval [72]
  • Portugal: 18, 16 with parental consent (if not possible, the court can provide the consent).
  • Romania: 18, 16 with permission from the district's administrative board.[73]
  • Russia: 18, 16 in special circumstances; may vary in different regions [74]
  • Serbia: 18, 16 with court consent.
  • Slovakia: 18, 16 with court consent but there has to be a serious reason such as pregnancy. [75]
  • Slovenia: 18, 16 with parental consent.
  • Spain: 18, 16 with parental consent.
  • Sweden: 18, younger with permission from the county administrative board (LST). The county administrative board may only give permission when there are 'special reasons' but although the custodians of the underage should be heard if possible, the consent of the custodians is not required. Although the law specifies no lower age limit to enter into marriage, the policy of the LST is to not grant any permission to a person under 15 years of age (source: LST, Stockholm).
  • Switzerland: 18 for men, 17 for women [76]
  • Turkey: 18, 17 with parental consent, 16 in special circumstances with court approval.
  • Ukraine: 18 for males, 17 for females, 16 with parental consent.
  • United Kingdom
  • Vatican City: 18 as the age of majority,[80] in the case of minors, 16 for males and 14 for females with parental or judicial consent per code of canon law [81]

North America

  • Canada: Varies by province, but generally 18 years old, 16 years with parental consent, 14 years with judicial consent.
  • Mexico: 20, 18[clarification needed], 14 for pregnant females with legal consent.
  • Puerto Rico: 21 (younger parties may obtain license in case of pregnancy or birth of child), 18 with parental consent.[82]
  • United States: 18 (two exceptions: 19 in Nebraska and 21 in Mississippi). Most states, however, allow minors below 18 to marry (generally they have to be at least 16 but sometimes lower) with parental and/or judicial consent, and some states allow female minors below 18 to marry without parental or judicial consent if she is pregnant.
    • Alabama: 18, 16 with parental consent.[83]
    • Alaska: 18, 16 with parental consent.[82]
    • Arizona: 18, 16 with parental consent, no minimum with approval of a superior court judge and parental consent.[84]
    • Arkansas: 18, 16 for females and 17 for males with parental consent.[82]
    • California: no statutory minimum, those under 18 must receive approval of a superior court judge, or parental consent.
    • Colorado: 18, 16 with parental consent, no minimum with judicial approval.[82][85][86]
    • Connecticut: 18, 16 with parental consent;[87] Under 16 w/ judicial & parental consent.[88]
    • District of Columbia: 18, 16 with parental consent.[82]
    • Delaware: 18, 16 for females with parental consent, 17 for males with parental consent.[82]
    • Florida: 18, 16 with parental consent.[82]
    • Georgia: 18, 15 with parental consent, 16 without parental consent if pregnant.[82]
    • Hawaii: 18, 15 with parental consent.[82]
    • Idaho: 18, 16 with parental consent.[82]
    • Illinois: 18, 16 with parental consent.[82]
    • Indiana: 18, 17 with parental consent, 15 in the case of pregnancy with both parental and judicial consent.[89]
    • Iowa: 18, 16 with parental consent.[82]
    • Kansas: 18, 16 with parental consent.[82]
    • Kentucky: 18, 16 with parental consent.[82]
    • Louisiana: 18, 16 with parental consent.[82]
    • Maine: 18, 16 with parental consent.[82]
    • Massachusetts: 18 for first marriage, 14 (male) 12 (female) with parental and judicial consent.[82]
    • Maryland: 18, 16 with parental consent.[82]
    • Michigan: 18, 16 with parental consent, 15 and under with parental consent and probate judge approval.
    • Minnesota: 18, 16 with parental consent.[82]
    • Mississippi: 21, no minimum with parental and judicial consent, but in practice the limit is 17 for men and 15 for women with parental consent.[90]
    • Missouri: 18, 15 with parental consent.[82]
    • Montana: 18, 16 with parental consent.[82]
    • Nebraska: 19, 17 with parental consent.[82]
    • Nevada: 18, 16 with parental consent.[82]
    • New Hampshire: 18, 14 for males and 13 for females, in cases of "special cause" with parental consent and court permission.
    • New Jersey: 18, 16 with parental consent and in the case of pregnancy.
    • New Mexico: 18, 16 with parental consent.[82]
    • New York: 18, 16 with parental consent, 14 with parental and judicial consent.[91]
    • North Carolina: 18, 16 with parental consent, unlimited in case of pregnancy or birth of child with parental consent.
    • North Dakota: 18, 16 with parental consent.[82]
    • Ohio: 18 generally as age of majority, but 16 for females with parental consent [92]
    • Oklahoma: 18, 16 with parental consent.[82]
    • Oregon: 18, 17 with parental consent. The consenting parent or guardian must accompany the applicant when applying for the marriage license.
    • Pennsylvania: 18, 16 with parental consent, 14 in case of pregnancy and with the approval of a Judge of the Orphans Court.
    • Rhode Island: 18, 16 for females with parental consent.[82]
    • South Carolina: 18, 16 with parental consent.[82]
    • South Dakota: 18, 16 with parental consent.[82]
    • Tennessee: 18, 16 with parental consent.[82]
    • Texas: 18, 14 with parental or judicial consent [93]
    • Utah: 18, 16 with parental consent, 15 with court approval.[94]
    • Vermont: 18, 16 with parental consent.[82]
    • Virginia: 18, 16 with parental consent.[95]
    • Washington: 18, 17 with parental consent.[82] May be waived by superior court judge.[96]
    • West Virginia: 18, 16 with parental consent, under 16 (unspecified limit) with parental and judicial consent[82][97]
    • Wisconsin: 18, 16 with parental consent.[82]
    • Wyoming: 18, 16 with parental consent.[82]

Oceania

  • Australia: 18, 16 with permission from a court and both parents (only granted in exceptional circumstances).[98]
  • New Zealand: 18, 16 with parental consent.[99]

South America

  • Argentina: 18, lower with judicial consent only in exceptional cases.[100]
  • Brazil: 18, 17 or earlier with consent of both parents, or of the legal tutor, if the minor is under the guardianship of a tutor; if one of the parents has been judicially removed from the discharge of parental authority, only the consent of the other parent is required; if both parents, married or not, are invested with parental authority (as is normally the case), and they disagree over the granting of consent, then any of them may petition a court to decide the matter. The minor can also petition a court to overrule the parents decision to deny consent, but the minor must prove that the refusal of consent is unreasonable. In exceptional circumstances, the marriage of someone who is under 16 years can also be authorized, but only by a court, and only in cases of pregnancy, or to avoid the imposition of a criminal penalty. There is no age limit for the exceptional scenario of a court authorizing a girl who is pregnant to marry.
  • Chile: 18, 16 with parental consent.
  • Colombia: 18, 14 with parental consent.
  • Paraguay: 16 for men, 14 for women. Article 39, clause "b", of the Paraguayan Civil Code reads: “The legal incapacity of minors will cease: ...(b) for gentlemen of 16 and for women of 14 years completed, through marriage, with the limitations established in this Code”.
  • Peru: 18
  • Venezuela: 18, 14 for females and 16 for males with parental consent.
  • Ecuador: 18

See also

References

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  3. ^ Profiles:Egypt
  4. ^ a b Do African Children Have Rights? (by Stephen Nmeregini Achilihu)
  5. ^ Legal Profiles: Kenya
  6. ^ Legal Profiles: Libya
  7. ^ MG: Droit francophone
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  9. ^ Legal Profiles:Senegal
  10. ^ Legal Profiles: Somalia
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  12. ^ Children's Act, No. 38 of 2005, section 17
  13. ^ Marriage Act, No. 25 of 1961, section 26.
  14. ^ Civil Union Act, 2006, section 1
  15. ^ Recognition of Customary Marriages Act, No. 120 of 1998, section 3.
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  17. ^ Legal Profiles: Tanzania
  18. ^ Legal Profiles: Tunisia
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  93. ^ [4]
  94. ^ Virginia marriage requirements
  95. ^ "RCW 26.04.010 Marriage contract — Void marriages.". Revised Code of Washington. Washington State Legislature. http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=26.04.010. Retrieved 24 August 2011. "Every marriage entered into in which either the husband or the wife has not attained the age of seventeen years is void except where this section has been waived by a superior court judge…" 
  96. ^ WV Code Chapter 48
  97. ^ Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961 s.10-21
  98. ^ The Department of Internal Affairs: Births Deaths and Marriages - How to Get a Marriage Licence
  99. ^ See Articles 166, 167 and 168 - Marriage Section of the Argentine Civil Code

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