Report No. 205
In the UK, a marriage below the age of 16 years is void.4 The Marital rape exemption was abolished in its entirety in 1991.
In Egypt, the age of majority for all legal purposes except marriage is 21 years. The marriageable age is 18 for males and 16 for females.5 But again the age of consent is different from marriageable age. The age for giving consent is 18 years6 and the penal code says that intercourse with a girl below 18 years is rape.7
In the U.S., different States have different laws. The legal age for marriage under most of these laws is however 18 for both males and females.8 However, in States like California a person can marry below that age with the permission of parents.9 The marital rape exception has been abolished in 50 States of the US.10
In Pakistan under the Muslim Family Law Ordinance, the girl must have attained the age of 16 years and the boy must have attained the age of 18 years and both need to consent before the marriage can take place.11 In Indonesia the age of majority as well as marriageable age is 16 for girls and 19 for boys.12 The age for giving a valid consent to a sexual act is also set at 16 years for a girl. Any marriage below the legal age is void.13
1. Marriage Act 19555, , visited on December 2007.
2. Crimes Act 1961, section 123, clause 4, <, visited on December 2007.
3. Mishra, Saurabh &Sarves Sinhg, Marital Rape - Myth, Reality and Need for Criminalization,(2003) Practical Lawyer WebJour 12,, visited on December 2007.
4. Marriage Act, 1949, Halsbury's Laws on England, 4th Edn., Reissue, Vol. 26(3), p. 41.
5. CEDAW Egypt Country Report (30 March, 2000), p. 16.
6. UNICEF Website, , visited on November 2007.
7. CEDAW Egypt Country Report (30 March, 2000), p. 16.
8. Cornell University Law School, Legal Information Institute (LII), , visited on December 2007.
9. California Family Code, Section 301, , visited on November 2007.
10. Narayan, Chitra, When the spouse turns abusive, the Hindu (Metro Plus Chennai), Jun 03, 2006.
11. Article 16, CEDAW Pakistan Country Report (2005), p. 122.
12. Article 16, CEDA W Indonesia Country Report (27 July 2005), p. 57.
13. Article 16, CEDA W Indonesia Country Report (27 July 2005), p. 58.
The Domestic Violence law in Indonesia also punishes a person in the household who forces sex on another person in the same household with a maximum sentence of 15 years.1
The detailing of laws from different countries therefore shows that barring a few countries, most countries have 18 as a minimum age of marriage for both boys and girls. Some countries allow marriage below the age of 18 but above the age of 16. The age of consent to sexual intercourse is the same as the minimum or relaxed age of marriage.
International Conventions also support the proposition that child marriage should be eradicated. Various international bodies such as the UNICEF and the United National Population Fund have suggested that 18 should be considered the minimum age of marriage.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which India has ratified, specifically addresses age of marriage. Article 16(2) provides that "the betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage and to make the registration of marriages in an official registry compulsory".
The Committee that oversees the Women's Convention, has, however, issued its interpretation of article 16(2) in the form of General Recommendation No. 21. entitled "Equality in marriage and family relations."2 This recommendation has also suggested that the age of marriage for both men and women should be 18.
The recommendation quotes with approval the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights, 1993, that States are urged to repeal existing laws and regulations and to remove customs and practices which discriminate against and cause harm to the girl child. It further states, "when men and women marry, they assume important responsibilities. Consequently, marriage should not be permitted before they have attained full maturity and capacity to act.
According to the World Health Organization, when minors, particularly girls, marry and have children, their health can be adversely affected and their education is impeded. As a result their economic autonomy is restricted. This not only affects women personally but also limits the development of their skills and independence and reduces access to employment, thereby detrimentally affecting their families and communities."