The “Appropriate Ages” For Marriage From Cultures Around The World
In the United States, most regions allow people as young as 18 to tie the knot without parental consent. But what about in other countries? There’s no set marriage age around the world. Some countries base their marriage laws on specific ages, while others simply require parties to have reached puberty before they can be legally wed.
When discussing marriage and sex culture around the world, it’s important to acknowledge how different perceptions of maturity and religious beliefs can affect societies’ views. A number of nations continue to have high rates of child brides, though human and women’s rights activists are working to change that. What’s considered a marriage-ready age varies widely from area to area – and even from person to person – but most would agree that the willingness and understanding of both parties is crucial to such a commitment.
Marriage age around the world is often higher than the age of sexual consent, even within in the same countries. But regardless of your personal views on intimacy and matrimony, learning about marriage culture around the world can provide an intriguing look at how other societies live.
1. There’s No Set Marriage Age In Yemen
Yemen allows girls as young as 8 to enter into marriage. Child marriage is deeply ingrained in Yemen, with causes such as poverty and religious tradition reinforcing the practice. There’s no legal marriage age in the nation; a child’s parents are allowed to determine when they can be married. UNICEF estimates that 32% of girls in the country are married before age 18.
2. In Massachusetts, Boys Of 14 And Girls Of 12 Can Get Married With Parental Consent
A number of American states set the legal age to marry at 18. However, some states allow minors to marry, with certain restrictions. Massachusetts, for instance, does not set a specific minimum age for marriage. According to a controversial precedent set in 1854, boys as young as 14 and girls as young as 12 are allowed to get married in the state.
However, there are a few hoops they must jump through first. A court order is required, and before a judge will grant an order for a minor to wed, both parents of the child must appear and give their consent. If one or both parents live outside of Massachusetts, a court may order notice of the hearing be sent to them. However, no court order is required if a parent has deserted the minor, if the parent cannot give permission due to mental illness or other incapacity, or if the parent has been deemed unfit to have custody.
3. Girls Who Hit Puberty Can Be Married In Sudan
Marriage laws in Sudan vary based on religion. The Personal Status Law of Muslims allows a girl to get married once she reaches puberty, and states that 10-year-olds can be married by their guardians with a judge’s permission. However, the Marriage of Non-Muslims Act of 1926 sets marriage age at 13 for non-Muslim girls, and at 15 for non-Muslim boys.
Regardless of their religion, UNICEF studies estimate that one in three Sudanese girls marry before the age of 18.
4. Japan’s Age Of Consent Is Typically 13
The age of consent in Japan is 13. However, some regions also have “corruption of minors” or “obscenity” statutes that essentially raise the age of consent to 16-18.
In terms of marriage, girls of 16 and boys of 18 may get married with parental consent. At age 20, they can be married without parental consent.
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5. Saudi Arabia Has No Law Governing Age For Marriage
There is currently no minimum age for females to marry in Saudi Arabia. Child brides as young as 8 years old have been reported in the country.
A 2014 proposal recommended that the marriage age for women be set at 15, and that requests to marry a younger girl require consultation from medical professionals. However, Saudi Arabia’s religious leader, Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Asheikh, has said that he does not plan to restrict the minimum age for marriage for women to 15 years.
6. Angola’s Age For Sexual Consent Is 12
While Angola’s legal age to marry is 18, or 16 with parental permission, the sexual age of consent for Angolans of both sexes is 12. An older partner who has sex with an individual under the age of 12 can be prosecuted for statutory rape.
The law in Angola doesn’t have a close-in-age exemption, either. That means that two minors under the age of 12 who engage in consensual sex could both be prosecuted for statutory rape, and that two minors close in age – say, 11 and 13 – would be at risk for legal action as well.
7. China’s Age Of Consent Is 14, But Marriage Age Is 20-22
In China, the age of consent is 14. Anyone who engages in sexual activity with a partner younger than 14 may be prosecuted for statutory rape, and the punishment is more severe if the incident involved an underage prostitute. The age of consent is 16 in Hong Kong, and 14 in Macau.
Chinese women may be married at age 20, while Chinese men are allowed to get married at age 22.
8. Marriage Age Varies In India
India, with its diverse ethnic and religious populations, has a complex set of rules governing legal marriage. According to the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, women must be 18 and men must be 21 before they can be married. But this law is often ignored, and according to UNICEF, 47% of Indian girls are married by 18, and 18% are married by 15 – often without the girls’ consent.
9. Bangladesh’s Laws Set 21 As The Marriage Age, But Child Brides Are Common
Officially, male citizens of Bangladesh may marry at age 21, and female citizens at age 18. However, in February 2017 a new law was passed that allows child marriages in “special circumstances,” though the law doesn’t specify what those might be. Any child marriages would require both parental consent and permission from the courts.
The number of child brides has dropped in the country, but UNICEF still estimates that about 52% of women in the country are married before age 18.
10. In Zimbabwe, The Marriage Age Is 18
Child marriage is a major issue in Zimbabwe; the nation’s religious culture and socioeconomic gap reinforce the tradition. UNICEF estimates that 34% of the country’s women are married by age 18.
However, Zimbabwe adopted a new constitution in 2013 that states “no children are [to be] pledged into marriage.” The minimum legal age of marriage was set at 18 in 2016.
11. The Age Of Consent In Bahrain Is 21, But Girls Can Get Married At 15
The age of consent in Bahrain is 21. Anyone who violates that law may be imprisoned.
The legal age of marriage is under debate in Bahrain. Officially, girls may marry as young as 15, but activists are pushing for age 18 for both men and women to legally marry.
12. Lithuania Requires Couples To Be At Least 16 To Get Married
Lithuanian law sets the legal age of marriage as 18, or 16 if the person’s partner is over 18. However, for many years, both men and women could legally marry at age 15. If a woman was pregnant, she could be wed even younger.
The age of consent in Lithuania is 14, or 16 if the person’s partner is over 18.
13. Chilean Teens Can Get Married At 18, But Sexual Laws Are Complicated
In Chile, the minimum age of consent is 14. The country places restrictions on sex before the age of 18, though, and homosexual activity is illegal before 18.
Chilean young adults can get married as young as 18.
14. Marriage Age In Canada Is 16, With Conditions
Like many Western nations, Canada’s age for sexual consent is 16. That age was raised from 14 by the 2008 Tackling Violent Crime Act. The law also includes a “close-in-age exception” that allows 14- and 15-year-olds to have sex with a partner who is less than five years older.
In terms of marriage, the legal age is 16 in most provinces, with parental permission.
15. Estonia Has The Lowest Marriage Age In Europe
In Estonia, people as young as 15 can get married with parental consent. It’s the lowest marriage age in Europe. Spain once allowed 14-year-olds to get married, but in 2015 that age was raised to 16.
16. The Marriage Age In Scotland Is 16
Opposite-sex and same-sex couples can get married in Scotland if both people are 16 or older. No parental consent is required. The parties don’t need to be Scottish; English or Welsh citizens can come to the country to tie the knot as well.