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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 marriageable age should not be confused with the age of maturity or the age of consent , though, they may be the same in many places.
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.
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. 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. In Jewish oral tradition, men cannot consent to marriage until they reach the age of majority of 13 years and a 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. 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. 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.
The Church prohibited consanguineous marriages, a marriage pattern that had been a means to maintain clans and thus their power throughout 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.
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.
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;  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.
The first recorded age-of-consent law dates back years. In , in England, as part of the rape law, the Statute of Westminster , 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. 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". 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.
However, marriage in Scotland at such young ages was in practice almost unknown. In most of Northwestern Europe , marriage at very early ages was rare. One thousand marriage certificates from to 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 brides were at least 19 years old. For the grooms 24 years was the most common age, with average ages of 24 years for the brides and 27 for the grooms.
The American colonies followed the English tradition, but the law was more of a guide. 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". 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. In France, until the French Revolution , the marriageable age was 12 years for girls and 14 for boys.
Revolutionary legislation in increased the age to 13 years for girls and 15 for boys. Under the Napoleonic Code in , the marriageable age was set at 15 years for girls and 18 for boys. 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. 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: . In , 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 [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 countries. Additionally, in 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 , Denmark , Germany , Luxembourg , Spain , Netherlands , Finland and Ireland In the US, the lax child marriage laws that exist in many states have attracted international attention.
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.
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 s, more than such marriages were registered each year.
Since 1 June Finland has banned marriages of anyone under 18 with no exemptions. 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 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. 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,  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.
England and Wales : 16 with parental consent or the permission of the court. Scotland : 16 . Northern Ireland : 16 with parental consent with the court able to give consent in some cases. 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. 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.
The 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 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.
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 A virgin's silence is considered as permission".
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Part of the Politics series on Youth rights Activities. Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Co. Dagenhart History of youth rights in the United States Morse v. Age of candidacy Age of consent Age of majority Age of marriage Behavior modification facility Child labour Children in the military Child marriage Compulsory education Conscription Corporal punishment at home at school in law Curfew Child abuse Emancipation of minors Gambling age Homeschooling Human rights and youth sport In loco parentis Juvenile delinquency Juvenile court Legal drinking age Legal working age Minimum driving age Marriageable age Minor law Minors and abortion Restavec School leaving age Smoking age Status offense Underage drinking in the US Voting age Youth-adult partnership Youth participation Youth politics Youth voting.
Adam Fletcher activist David J. Males Neil Postman Sonia Yaco. Further information: Age of majority and Minor law. Retrieved 22 April Retrieved A brief outline of roman law. Gangemi Editore spa.
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The Good Wife
We systematically reviewed existing academic literature and news media to learn what is known about the frequency of child marriage in Canada and its effects on health. News reports document cases of child marriage among religious minority communities but no nationwide estimates of the frequency of marriage before the age of 18 were identified. Sources consistently show girls are more likely to marry as teens than boys. Information on married teens between 15 and 19 years of age suggests similarities in marriage patterns among this age group in Canada and child marriage practices globally. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Data Availability: The data used for our results tables are all from our included articles and or publicly available data from Statistics Canada. Additionally, our search strategy for the systematic review is included as an appendix. The funders did not play any role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript. Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights defines child marriage as the formal or informal marriage of any person under the age of 18 [ 1 ].
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Globally, nearly 12 million girls are married before the age of 18 each year. Test your knowledge and learn more about this global issue. Meet the Wedding Busters. Child marriage can lead to early pregnancies.
Child marriage is a marriage or similar union, formal or informal, between an adult and a child or another child under age eighteen. Although the age of majority legal adulthood and marriageable age are usually designated at age 18, both vary across countries and therefore the marriageable age may be older or younger in a given country. Child marriage violates the rights of children and has widespread and long-term consequences for child brides and child grooms. Child marriages were common throughout history.
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