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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 law, and thus abolishing customary and tribal practices.

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.

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.



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)


North America


South America

See also


  1. ^ Stephen Robertson, University of Sydney, Australia. "Children and Youth in History | Age of Consent Laws". Retrieved 2010-06-30.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Legal Profiles: Algeria
  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
  8. ^ Morocco Pushes Women's Rights (originally published in The Washington Times)
  9. ^ Legal Profiles:Senegal
  10. ^ Legal Profiles: Somalia
  11. ^ Marriage Act, No. 25 of 1961, section 24.
  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.
  16. ^ Legal Profiles: Sudan
  17. ^ Legal Profiles: Tanzania
  18. ^ Legal Profiles: Tunisia
  19. ^ Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
  20. ^ IRIN Asia | Asia | Afghanistan | AFGHANISTAN: Child marriage still widespread | Other | Breaking News
  21. ^ a b Family Law of Azerbaijan, Asset 10.1, 10.2
  22. ^ Legal Profiles: Bangladesh
  23. ^ Legal Profiles: Brunei
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  27. ^ a b [1] see Chapter VI, Conclusions and Recommendations
  28. ^
  29. ^ Payvand Iran News, Mehdi Baghernejad, April 18, 2010
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  31. ^ Ottoman Law of Family Rights 1917 for males and Age of Marriage Law 1950 for females.
  32. ^
  33. ^ Legal Profiles: Jordan last accessed 25 March 2007
  34. ^ Kazakh Family Law, asset 10
  35. ^
  36. ^ Kyrgyzstan Independence Information-[]
  37. ^ Profiles: Lebanon last accessed 25 March 2007
  38. ^ Malaysia Family Law
  39. ^ Legal Profiles: Maldives last accessed 25 March 2007
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  41. ^ Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929
  42. ^
  43. ^ "Family Code of the Philippines". Retrieved 2008-10-27.
  44. ^ Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines
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  46. ^ Legal Profiles: Sri Lanka last accessed 25 March 2007
  47. ^ Legal Profiles: Syria last accessed 25 March 2007
  48. ^ Civil Code Part I General Principles Article 12.
  49. ^ Civil Code Part IV Family Articles 980 and 981.
  50. ^
  51. ^ Introduction to Turkish Law By Tugrul Ansay, Don Wallace, Jr.
  52. ^ [3] Uzbekistan Family Law, asset 15
  53. ^ Power, Carla (12 August 2009), Nujood Ali & Shada Nasser win "Women of the Year Fund 2008 Glamour Award", Yemen Times, retrieved 16 February 2010
  54. ^ Mahmoud Assamiee and Nadia Al-Sakkaf (25 March 2010), Relative breakthrough in Yemen’s early marriage dilemma, Yemen Times, retrieved 8 April 2010
  55. ^ Sadeq Al-Wesabi (25 February 2010), Yemen’s children say no to early marriage, Yemen Times, retrieved 9 April 2010
  56. ^ Mo’ath Monassar (22 March 2010), Awareness campaign stops early marriages in Amran, Yemen Times, retrieved 9 April 2010
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  70. ^ "The Marriage Act" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-10-27.
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  72. ^ "Codul familiei - Incheierea casatoriei". Retrieved 2008-10-27.
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  79. ^ CIC 83, Can. 97
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  81. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai "Marriage Laws of the Fifty States, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico". Cornell University Law School. Retrieved 2009-11-10.
  82. ^ "Section 30-1-4". Code of Alabama. Alabama Legislature. 1975. Retrieved 24 August 2011. A person under the age of 16 years is incapable of contracting marriage.
  83. ^ "25-102. Consent required for marriage of minors". Arizona Revised Statutes. Arizona State Legislature. Retrieved 24 August 2011. Persons under eighteen years of age shall not marry without the consent of the parent or guardian having custody of such person. Persons under sixteen years of age shall not marry without the consent of the parent or guardian having custody of that person and the approval of any superior court judge in the state.
  84. ^ "Marriage Requirements and Applications". Denver, CO. Retrieved 2009-11-10.
  85. ^ C.R.S. Colorado Revised Statutes 14-2-106
  86. ^ Connecticut General Statutes, 46b-30(a)
  87. ^ Connecticut General Statutes, 46b-30(b)
  88. ^ "IC 31-11-1: ARTICLE 11. FAMILY LAW: MARRIAGE". Indiana State Legislature. Retrieved 2009-11-10.
  89. ^ "SEC. 93-1-5. Conditions precedent to issuance of license; penalty for noncompliance". Mississippi Code of 1972. LawNetCom. 1972. Retrieved 24 August 2011. The clerk shall not issue a marriage license under the provisions of this section unless the male applicant is at least seventeen (17) years of age, and the female is at least fifteen (15) years of age…if satisfactory proof is furnished to the judge of any circuit, chancery or county court that sufficient reasons exist and that said parties desire to be married to each other and that the parents or other person in loco parentis of the person or persons so under age consent thereto, then the judge of any such court…may waive the minimum age requirement…
  90. ^ Getting Married in New York State Last accessed January 3, 2009
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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. 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