Marriageable Age
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Marriageable Age

Marriageable age (or marriage age) is the minimum age at which a person is allowed by law to marry, either as a right or subject to parental, judicial or other forms of approval. 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 younger people to marry if the female is pregnant. Until recently, the marriageable age for girls was lower in many jurisdictions than for boys, on the premise that girls mature at an earlier age than boys. This law has been viewed to be discriminatory, so that in many countries the marriageable age of girls has been raised to equal that of boys. That age is most commonly 18, but there are variations, some higher and some lower.

The marriage age should not be confused with the age of maturity or the age of consent, though in many places they may be the same. In many developing countries, the official age prescriptions stand as mere guidelines. International organizations, such as UNICEF, regard a marriage by a person below the age of 18 as a child marriage and a violation of human rights.[1]

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.

History and social attitudes

Antiquity

Historically, the age of consent for a sexual union was determined by tribal custom, or was a matter for families to decide. In most cases, this coincided with signs of puberty: such as menstruation for a girl and pubic hair for a boy.[2]

In Jewish oral tradition, men cannot consent to marriage until they reach the age of majority of 13 years and one day and have undergone puberty. With no signs of puberty, they are considered minors until the age of twenty. After twenty, they are not considered adults if they show signs of impotence. If they show no signs of puberty or do show impotence, they automatically become adults by age 35 and can marry. The same rules apply to women, except their age of majority is 12 years and a day.[3][4]

In ancient Rome, it was very common for girls to marry and have children shortly after the onset of puberty. Roman law required brides to be at least 12 years old.[5] In Roman law, first marriages to brides from 12 to 24 required the consent of the bride and her father; by the late antique period, Roman law permitted women over 25 to marry without parental consent.[6]

The Catholic canon law followed the Roman law. In the 12th century, the Catholic Church drastically changed legal standards for marital consent by allowing daughters over 12 and sons over 14 to marry without their parents' approval, even if their marriage was made clandestinely.[7] Parish studies have confirmed that late medieval women did sometimes marry without their parents' approval.[8] In western Europe, the rise of Christianity 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 Church prohibited consanguineous marriages, a marriage pattern that had been a means to maintain clans (and thus their power) throughout history.[9] The church also forbade marriages in which the bride did not clearly agree to the union.[10]

Post-classical history

After the fall of the Western 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 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.[11] 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.[12] 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;[13] by appearances, marriage of adolescents was not the norm in England.[14]

In medieval Eastern Europe, on the other hand, 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;[15] 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.[16]

The first recorded age-of-consent law dates back 800 years. 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.[17] In the 12th century, the jurist Gratian, an influential founder of Canon law in medieval Europe, accepted the age of puberty for marriage to be between 12 and 14, but acknowledged consent to be meaningful if the children were older than 7. Some authorities claimed 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, and the marriage had not already been consummated. Gratian noted that "If one over the age of seven takes a prepubescent wife of less than seven and transfers her to his house, such a contract gives rise to the impediment of public propriety".[18] In spite of this, 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.[2]

Modern history

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.[19] 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.[20] 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).

In most of Northwestern Europe, marriage at very early ages was 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.[21] Additionally, the Church 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.[21] While European noblewomen often married early, they were a small minority of the population,[22] and the marriage certificates from Canterbury show that even among nobility it was very rare to marry women off at very early ages.[21]

The American colonies followed the English tradition, but 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".[2] Reliable data for when people would actually marry are very difficult to find. In England, for example, the only reliable data on age at marriage in the early modern period comes from records relating only to those who left the property after their death. Not only were the records relatively rare, but not all bothered to record the participants' ages, and it seems that the more complete the records are, the more likely they are to reveal young marriages, giving a biased sample. Additionally, 20th- and 21st-century historians have sometimes shown reluctance to accept data regarding a young age of marriage, and would instead explain the data away as a misreading by a later copier of the records.[2]

In France, until the French Revolution, the marriageable age was 12 years for girls and 14 for boys. Revolutionary legislation in 1792 increased the age to 13 years for girls and 15 for boys. Under the Napoleonic Code in 1804, the marriageable age was set at 15 years for girls and 18 for boys.[23] In 2006, the marriageable age for women was increased to 18, the same as for men.

In jurisdictions where the ages are not the same, the marriageable age for girls is more commonly two or three years lower than that for boys.

Marriageable age as a right vs exceptions

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:[24]

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). In the US, the lax child marriage laws that exist in many states have attracted international attention.[25] In recent years, several US states have reformed their child marriage laws, including Virginia, Texas, Florida, Connecticut, Kentucky, Arizona, Delaware, Tennessee, New Jersey, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Ohio. Yet, in 13 states, there is no absolute minimum marriage age, when all exceptions (such as parental or judicial consent) are taken into account (see Age of marriage in the United States and Child marriage in the United States).[26]

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.[27][28]

Relation to the age of majority

The marriage age as a right is usually the same with the age of majority which is 18 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 many jurisdictions, by marriage minors become legally emancipated.[29]

By country

Africa

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[30])
Angola[31] 18 16 15 -
Benin[32] 18 None
Botswana[33] 21 18 -
Burkina Faso[34] 20 20 17 18 15
Burundi[35] 21 18 -
Cameroon[36] 21 18 15 -
Central African Republic[37][38] 22 18 22 18 13
Chad[39] 21 18 -
Democratic Republic of Congo[40][41] 18
Djibouti[42] 18 None
Egypt[43] 18
Equatorial Guinea[44] 23 14 12 -
Eritrea[45] 18
Ethiopia[46] 18
Gabon[47] 21 18 15 -
Guinea-Bissau[48] 18
Guinea-Conakry[49] 21 18 -
Ivory Coast[50] 21 20 18 -
Kenya 18 As per section 4, Marriage Act 2014.[51]
Lesotho[52] 21 18 16 -
Liberia[53] 21 18 18 16 -
Libya[54] 20 None
Mauritius[55] 18 16 -
Madagascar[56] 18
Mali[57] 18 16 18 16 15
Mauritania[58] 18 None
Morocco[59] 18 None
Mozambique[60] 18 (awaits Presidential signature) 18 (awaits Presidental signature) - In July 2019, Mozambique passed a law to ban child marriage outright and awaiting a President signature into law.[61]
Namibia 21[62] 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.[63]
Niger[64] 21 18 15 -
Nigeria[65] 18
Republic of the Congo[66] 21 18 21 18 None
Rwanda[67] 21
São Tomé and Príncipe[68] 18 16 14 -
Senegal[69] 18 16 -
Sierra Leone[70] 18
Somalia[71] 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.[76]
South Sudan 18 [77]
Swaziland[78] 21 18 16 -
Tanzania[79] 18 15 14
Togo[80][81] 18 16
Tunisia[82] 18
Uganda[83] 18
Zambia[84] 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.[85]

Americas

Country Without parental or judicial consent With parental consent With judicial consent Notes
Male Female Male Female Male Female
Antigua and Barbuda[86] 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."[87]
Argentina 18 16 None (Art 403 and 404 of Código Civil y Comercial de la Nación).[88]
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).[89]
Barbados 18 16 - [90]
Belize 18 16 - with parental consent (The Belize Marriage (Amendment) Act of 2005 increased the minimum age from 14 to 16).[91]
Bolivia 18 16 (Article 139 of the new Civil Code of 2014).[92]
Brazil 18 16 [93]
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."[94] 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."[95]
Chile 18 16 - [96]
Colombia 18 14 - [97]
Costa Rica 18 [98]
Cuba 18 16 14 - [99]
Dominica 18 16 - [100]
Dominican Republic 18 16 - [101]
Ecuador 18 Since 2015, the minimum age is 18.[102]
El Salvador 18 Since 2017, the minimum age is 18.[103]
Grenada 21 16 - [104]
Guatemala 18 16 [105][106]
Guyana 18 16 - [107]
Haiti 18 15 - [108]
Honduras 18[109] Since 2017, the minimum age is 18. Before 2017 females could marry from 16, with parental consent.[109]
Jamaica 18 16 - [110]
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.[111]
Nicaragua 18 16 - under the new 2014 Código de Familia, Articles 54, 57(a) and 58(c)[112]
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.[113]
Paraguay 20 16 - [114]
Peru 18 16 - [115]
Puerto Rico 21 18 None (Younger parties may obtain license in case of pregnancy or birth of child), and 18 with parental consent.[116] Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States.
Saint Kitts and Nevis 16 [117]
Saint Lucia 18 16 - [118]
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 16 15 16 15 - [119]
Suriname 21 17 15 - [120]
Trinidad and Tobago 18 Since 2017, the minimum age is 18.[121]
United States 18 in most states
19 in Nebraska
21 in Mississippi
Varies All US states (except for Delaware and New Jersey) have exceptions/loopholes that allow minors to marry in case of parental consent, judicial consent, and/or pregnancy. Of those, 32 states have a minimum age ranging from 14-17. In 18 states, there is no minimum age. In the District of Columbia, the general age is 18 however minors aged 16 can marry with parental consent.
Uruguay 18 16 - [122]
Venezuela 18 16 Articles 18, 46, 59-65 of the Civil Code,[123] decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice [124]

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).
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."[125] 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.[126]
Bangladesh 21 18 None Bangladeshi law provides penal sanctions for the contraction of under-age marriages, although such unions are not considered invalid.[127] Despite the law, child marriage rates in Bangladesh are among the highest in the world. Every 2 out of 3 marriages involve child marriages.[128]
Bhutan 18 [129]
Brunei 18 14[130] Minimum legal age for marriage without parental consent varies across states/provinces, ethnic groups, religious groups or forms of marriage.[131]
Cambodia 18 [132]
China 22 20 22 20 - China is the only country to have the highest set marriageable age for men.[133]
Hong Kong 21 16[134][135] - Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.
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.[136] 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.[136] 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."[136]
Indonesia 21 19 16 None [137]
Iran 18 15 15 13 15 13 [138][139] Ways around these regulations include temporary marriages (Nikah mut'ah).[140] 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,[141] and 716 girls younger than 10 had wed.[142]
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.[])[143]
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.[144]
Japan 20 18 16 - [145]
Jordan 18 [146]
Kazakhstan 18 17 16 - [147]
South Korea 19 18 -
Kuwait 17 15 - - - - [148]
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.[149]
Laos 18 15 - [150]
Lebanon 18 17 17 15 15 9 9 with judicial permission for Shi'a.[] 18 or 17 and 16 or 15 with judicial permission for Druze.[151]
Macau 22 20 20 18 - Macau is a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.
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.[152]
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.[153]
Myanmar 20 14 - [154]
Nepal 20 18 - [155]
North Korea 18 17 18 17 - [156]
Oman 18 While the legal minimum age is 18, "custom still recognises marriages below the age of 18".[157]
Pakistan 18 16 in most provinces
18 in some provinces, including Punjab and Sindh[158][159]
18 16/18 - Despite the law[160] against child marriage, the practice is widespread. According to two 2013 reports, nearly 50% of all marriages in Pakistan involve girls less than 18 years old.[161][162] However, in Punjab and Sindh, severe punishments are given for marriages before the age of 18.[163][164]
Palestine 16 15 16 15 -
Mongolia 18 [165]
Philippines 21 18 - -[166]
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.[167]
Russia 18 16 May vary in different regions.
Saudi Arabia 18 15 15 with judicial approval from a specialized court and must satisfy certain regulations.[168]
Singapore 21 18 None
Sri Lanka 18 However, the parties must have a Qadi's permission to marry before contracting into marriage if they are Muslims.[169]
Syria 18 Thomson Reuters Foundation notes that child marriage occurs from 13 years.[170]
Republic of China(Taiwan) 20 18 16 18 for males and 16 for females with statutory agent's consent.[171][172]
Tajikistan 18 17 - [173]
Thailand 20 17 - [174]
Timor-Leste 17 16 - [175]
Turkmenistan 16 [176]
United Arab Emirates 18 While UAE is based on Sharia law, a minimum age for marriage exists.[177]
Uzbekistan 18 17 18 17 - [178]
Vietnam 20 18 20 18 - [179]
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."[180]

Europe

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,[181] 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 [182][183]
Andorra 16 14 [184]
Armenia 18 17 16 The age was set at 18 for both sexes in 2012,[185] prior to that date it was 17 for females and 18 for males.[186] 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.[187]
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[188]). The marriageable age for females was raised in 2011 to 18, equalizing it to that of males; prior to that date it was 17.[189]
Belarus 18 [190]
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.[191]
Bosnia and Herzegovina 18 16 [192]
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)[193]
Croatia 18 16
Cyprus 18 16 16 with parental consent, if there are serious reasons for the marriage.[194][195]
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.[196] 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 Since 2017, marriage is no longer allowed under 18.[197]
Estonia 18 15 15 with court permission.[198][199]
Finland 18 In Finland, all marriages under 18 - is completely legally banned with no exemptions since June 1, 2019.[200]
France 18 None 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,[201] but in exceptional cases a court may allow marriage at younger ages.[202]
Georgia 18 Since 2017, marriage under 18 is prohibited.[203]
Germany 18 The minimum age was explicitly set to 18 on July 22, 2017.[204] (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.[205][206]
Gibraltar 18
Greece 18 None Under 18 requires court permission, which may be given if there are serious reasons for such a marriage[194][207]
Hungary 18 16 16 with authorization from the guardianship authority[208]
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.[209]
Italy 18 16
Latvia 18 16
Liechtenstein 18 None [210]
Lithuania 18 15 None Minors can only marry below 15 if they are pregnant females with court permission.[211]
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.[212]
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.)[213]
Moldova 18 16 16, if there are valid reasons, with both judicial and parental permission[214]
Montenegro 18 16 [215]
Netherlands 18 Marriage under 18 is prohibited. Exceptions were removed by a change in the law in 2015.[216]
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'.[217][218] 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.[219][220]
Poland 18 16 The Family and guardianship code Art.10.§1. A person who is not over eighteen can not marry. However, for the brave reasons, the guardianship court may allow a woman who turns sixteen to marry, and the azocollicity 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.[221]
Portugal 18 16
Romania 18 16 16, if there are valid reasons, with both judicial and parental permission, as well as medical approval.[222]
Russia 18 16 16 in special circumstances, but different rules apply in some regions.[223]
San Marino 18 16 [224]
Serbia 18 16
Slovakia 18 16 16 with court consent, with a serious reason such as pregnancy.[225]
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).[226]
Spain 18 16 [227]
Sweden 18 Not possible to marry under the age of 18 since July 1, 2014.[228]
Switzerland 18 To be able to marry, the prospective spouses must have reached 18 years of age and have the capacity of judgement.[229]
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.[230]
United Kingdom 18 in most jurisdictions
16 in Scotland
16

England and Wales: 16 with parental consent or the permission of the court.[231]

Scotland: 16[232]

Northern Ireland: 16 with parental consent (with the court able to give consent in some cases).[233]

Oceania

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).[234] Also in its external territories.
Fiji 18 16 - [235]
Kiribati 21 18 - [236]
Micronesia 18 16 18 16 - [237]
Nauru 18 16 18 16 - [238]
New Zealand 18 16 16 with permission from a court and both parents.[239][240]
Niue 21 19 18 15 - [241]
Palau 18 16 18 16 - [242]
Papua New Guinea 21 [243]
Samoa 21 19 18 16 - [244]
Solomon Islands 18 15 - [245]
Tonga 18 16 - [246]
Tokelau 21 19 18 16 - [247]
Tuvalu 21 16 - [248]
Vanuatu 21 18 - [249]

By religion

Catholic Church

Male consent Female consent Notes
Catholic Church 16 14 Diriment impediment (can. 1083 § 1).[250]Conferences of Bishops can adopt a higher age for liceity[251] (§ 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 child (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 Bishops

Male consent Female consent Notes
Canada 18 [252]
England and Wales 16 [253]
Gambia 18 16 [254]
Liberia 18 16 [254]
New Zealand 16 [252]
Nigeria see note Each bishop has the authority to set a higher prohibitive minimum age.[255]
Philippines 21 18 [256]
Sierra Leone 18 16 [254]

Islam

In Quran, the "age of marriage" coincides with puberty. Classical Islamic law (Sharia) does not have a marriageable age because there is no minimum age at which puberty can occur. In Islam there is no set age for marriage, the condition is physical (bulugh) maturity and mental (rushd) maturity. So the age is variable to each individual and also can be variant within different cultures and different times.[257][254][258][259]

Büchler and Schlater observe 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", but then claim the schools of Islamic jurisprudence (madhaahib) set the following marriageable ages for men and women.[260]

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 ages of legal majority 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 adolescent. 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.[261] Many senior clerics in Saudi Arabia have opposed setting a minimum age for marriage, arguing that a woman reaches adulthood at puberty.[262] However in 2019 Members of the Saudi Shoura Council in 2019 approved fresh regulations for minor marriages 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.[263]

According to the Shafi book of Jurisprudence Reliance of the Traveler:

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 woman 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).[264]


Male consent Female consent Notes
Shafi'i 15
Hanbali 15
Maliki 17
Hanafi 12 9
Jafari 15 9 Shia

Hinduism

Dharmastra (Dharmasutras) state that girl should be married after they have attained puberty.[265]

See also

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