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 marriage age is often set at 18. Until recently, the marriageable age for women was lower in many jurisdictions than for men, but in many places has now been raised to those of men. Most jurisdictions allow marriage at a younger age with parental or judicial approval, and some also allow younger people to marry if the woman is pregnant. The marriage age should not be confused with the age of majority or the age of consent, though in some places they may be the same. In many developing countries, the official age prescriptions stand as mere guidelines. In some societies, a marriage by a person (usually a woman) below the age of 21 is regarded as a child marriage.

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. 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 minimum age for marriage.

History and social attitudes

Ancient history

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.[1]

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.[2][3]

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.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6] Parish studies have confirmed that late medieval women did sometimes marry without their parents' approval.[7]

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.[8] The church also forbade marriages in which the bride did not clearly agree to the union.[9]

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.[10] 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.[11] 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;[12] by appearances, marriage of adolescents was not the norm in England.[13]

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;[14] 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.[15]

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 misdemeanour 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.[16] 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".[17] 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[1]

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.[18] 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.[19] 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.[20] 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.[20] While European noblewomen often married early, they were a small minority of the population,[21] and the marriage certificates from Canterbury show that even among nobility it was very rare to marry women off at very early ages.[20]

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".[1] 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 come from records relating only to 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 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.[1]

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.[22] 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 the marriageable age as a right is 18. However, most of these countries have exceptions for minors, usually requiring parental or judicial authorization. These exceptions vary considerably by country. The United Nations Population Fund stated the following:[23]

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 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). 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.[24]

In Western countries, marriages of teenagers have become rare in recent years, with their frequency having rapidly declined during the past few decades. For instance, in Finland, where underage youth can obtain a special judicial authorization to marry, there are only 30–40 such marriages per year in the early 21st century (with most of the spouses being aged 17), while in the early 1990s, more than 100 underage marriages were registered each year.[25]

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.[26]

By country


CountryMale consentFemale consentNotes
Algeria19under 19 with judicial consent (Article 7 of the Family Code[27])
Angola1816 with parental consent males, 15 with parental consent females.[28]
Botswana2118 with parental consent.[30]
Burkina Faso201718 with parental consent males, 15 with parental consent females.[29]
Central African Republic2218[33]
Democratic Republic of Congo1815[35]
Egypt21male: 18 with parental consent female: 16 with parental consent.[37]
Equatorial Guinea12[38]
Gabon2118 with parental consent males, 15 with parental consent females.[41]
Ivory Coast2018[44]
Kenya18As per section 4, Marriage Act 2014.[45]
Lesotho2118 with parental consent males, 16 with parental consent females.[46]
Liberia211818 with parental consent males, 16 with parental consent females[47]
Libya20But lower with judicial permission on grounds of benefit or necessity and with wali's agreement.[48]
Mauritius1816 with parental consent[49]
Mozambique1816 with parental consent[54]
Namibia2118 with parental consent[55]
Niger1815under with parental consent[56]
Republic of the Congo2118under with parental consent[58]
Rwanda21under with parental consent[59]
São Tomé and Príncipe1816 with parental consent males, 14 with parental consent females.[60]
Sierra Leone18[62]
Somalia1816 with parental consent females[63]
South Africa18
SudanPubertyWith requirement for willing consent of both parties.[68]
South Sudan18[69]
Swaziland2118 with parental consent males, 16 with parental consent females.[70]
Tanzania1814 with parental consent[71]
Zimbabwe1816 with parental consent.[76]


CountryMale consentFemale consentNotes
Antigua and Barbuda1815 with parental consent.[77] 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."[78]
Argentina1816 with parental consent, lower with judicial consent in exceptional cases (Art 403 and 404 of Código Civil y Comercial de la Nación).[79]
Bahamas18The Marriage Act (1908) provides no minimum age with parental consent or with a Supreme Court ruling.[80]
Barbados1816 with parental consent.[81]
Belize1814 with parental consent.[82] Section 4.-(1) of the Marriage Act reads: A marriage solemnised between persons either of whom is under the age of fourteen shall be void.[83]
Bolivia21Males can marry at 16 and females at 14 with permission from parents or guardians. Exceptions can be made for pregnant minors.[84]
Brazil1816 with parental or guardian consent.[85]
Canada18/19Marriage 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."[86] 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."[87]
Chile1816 with parental consent.[88]
Colombia1814 with parental consent[89]
Costa Rica18Since 2017, the minimum age is 18.[90]
Cuba181616 with parental consent males, 14 with parental consent females.[91]
Dominica1816 with parental consent.[92]
Dominican Republic1816 with parental consent.[93]
Ecuador18Since 2015, the minimum age is 18.[94]
El Salvador1815 with parental consent males, 14 with parental consent females.[95]
Grenada2116 with parental consent.[96]
Guatemala1816 with judicial consent.[97][98]
Guyana1816 with parental consent[99]
Haiti1815 with parental consent females.[100]
Honduras18[101]Since 2017, the minimum age is 18. Before 2017 females could marry from 16, with parental consent.[102]
Jamaica1816 with parental consent.[103]
Mexico18Varies 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.[104]
Nicaragua1816 with parental consent (under the new 2014 Código de Familia, Articles 54, 57(a) and 58(c))[105]
Panama18Since 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.[106]
Paraguay2016 with parental consent[107]
Peru1816 with parental consent[108]
Puerto Rico21(Younger parties may obtain license in case of pregnancy or birth of child), and 18 with parental consent.[109]
Saint Kitts and Nevis16[110]
Saint Lucia1816 with parental consent[111]
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines1615[112]
Suriname2117 with parental consent males, 15 with parental consent females.[113]
Trinidad and Tobago18Since 2017, the minimum age is 18.[114]
United States18 in most states
19 in Nebraska
21 in Mississippi
All states except Delaware and New Jersey allow some minors to marry, with minimum ages varying from 14 in Alaska and North Carolina to 17 in Florida, Kentucky, Nebraska, New York, Oregon and Tennessee. In 18 states, there is no statutory minimum age if other legal conditions are met.
Uruguay1816 with parental consent[115]
Venezuela1814 for females and 16 for males with parental consent.[116]


CountryMale consentFemale consentNotes
Afghanistan181615 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."[117] 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.[118]
Bangladesh2118 (under 18 for special cases, with parental consent and permission of court)Bangladeshi law provides penal sanctions for the contraction of under-age marriages, although such unions are not considered invalid.[119] Despite the law, child marriage rates in Bangladesh are among the highest in the world. Every 2 out of 3 marriages involve child marriages.[120]
Brunei18Minimum legal age for marriage without parental consent varies across states/provinces, ethnic groups, religious groups or forms of marriage.[122]
China2220China is the only country to have the highest set marriageable age for men.[124]
Hong Kong2116 with parental consent.[125][126]
India2118If 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 16.[127] 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.[127] 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."[127]
Indonesia1816Marriage at younger ages is legal with parental consent and judicial approval.[128]
Iran181515 for males and 13 for females with parental consent and judicial approval.[129][130]
Iraq1815 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.)[131]
Israel18Minimum marriageable age increased from 17 to 18 in November 2013. Family courts able to recognise marriage for 16 and above in special cases.[132]
Japan2018 for males and 16 for females with parental consent.[133]
Kazakhstan181716 with parental consent.[135]
South Korea1918 with parental consent
Kyrgyzstan18Local 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.[137]
Laos1815 with parental consent.[138]
Lebanon181715, or 9 with judicial permission for Shi'a. 18 or 17 and 16 or 15 with judicial permission for Druze.[139]
Macau222020 for males and 18 for females with parental consent.
Malaysia2118 with parental consent. Muslim girls under 16 can marry with the permission of sharia authorities.[140]
Maldives18According 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.[141]
Myanmar2014 with parental consent females.[142]
Nepal2018 with parental consent.[143]
North Korea1817[144]
Oman18While the legal minimum age is 18, "custom still recognises marriages below the age of 18".[145]
Pakistan1816 in most provinces
18 in some provinces, including Punjab and Sindh[146][147]
Despite the law[148] 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.[149][150] However, in Punjab and Sindh, severe punishments are given for marriages before the age of 18.[151][152]
Palestine1615With parental consent.
Philippines2118 with parent consent.[154]
Qatar1816Under with parental consent. 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.[155]
Russia1816 in special circumstances; may vary in different regions.
Saudi ArabiaNone[156]
Singapore2118 with parental consent; below 18 with special marriage license.
Sri Lanka18However, the parties must have a Qadi's permission to marry before contracting into marriage if they are Muslims.[157]
Syria18Thomson Reuters Foundation notes that child marriage occurs from 13 years.[158]
Republic of ChinaTaiwan2018 for males and 16 for females with statutory agent's consent.[159][160]
Tajikistan1817 with parental consent.[161]
Thailand2017 with parental consent.[162]
Timor-Leste1716 with parental consent.[163]
United Arab Emirates18While UAE is based on Sharia law, a minimum age for marriage exists.[165]
Yemen15HRW notes no legal minimum age for marriage under Sharia law, and UNSD notes that child marriage is permitted where "such marriage will entail some clear benefit."[168]


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,[169] 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.

CountryLegal marriageable ageNotes
Andorra1614 with judicial authority[172]
Armenia18The age was set at 18 for both sexes in 2012,[173] prior to that date it was 17 for females and 18 for males.[174] 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.[175]
Austria1816 with parental consent but the other partner must be at least 18.
Azerbaijan1817 in special cases with judicial authorization. (Article 10 of the Family Code[176]). The marriageable age for females was raised in 2011 to 18, equalizing it to that of males; prior to that date it was 17.[177]
Belgium18Younger with judicial consent (with no strict minimum age). 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.[179]
Bulgaria18The 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)[180]
Croatia1816 with court permission.
Cyprus1816 with parental consent, if there are serious reasons for the marriage.[181][182]
Czech Republic18Article 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.[183] 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.
Denmark18Since 2017, marriage is no longer allowed under 18.[184]
Estonia1815 with court permission.[185][186]
Finland18Under 18 with the consent of the ministry of justice in extraordinary circumstances, in which case parents or other guardian must be heard, but actual parental consent is not required.
France18Under 18 permission from a court and both parents.
Georgia1816 with parental consent.[187]
Germany18The minimum age was explicitly set to 18 on July 22, 2017.[188] (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. [189][190]
Greece18Under 18 requires court permission, which may be given if there are serious reasons for such a marriage[181][191]
Hungary1816 with authorization from the guardianship authority[192]
Iceland18Under 18 with parental consent and permission of the Ministry of the Interior.
Ireland18Under 18 with the permission of the Circuit Family Court or High Court.[193][194] In December 2015, the government announced its intention to remove this exception.[195]
Italy1816 with court consent.
Latvia1816 with court or parental permission.
Liechtenstein18Required court decision to marry people who are under 18 years old.[196]
Lithuania1815 with court permission, minors can only marry below 15 if they are pregnant females with court permission.[197]
Luxembourg18New 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.[198]
Macedonia18possible with age of 16 and court approval for male and female, their consent and their parents consent is needed
Malta1816 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.)[199]
Netherlands18Under 18 with permission from the Minister of Justice; 16 with parental consent in case of pregnancy.[181][200]
Norway1816 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'.[201][202] 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.[203][204]
Poland1816 for women with judicial approval.
Portugal1816 with parental consent (or if this is unattainable, the court can provide the consent).
Romania1816 with permission from the district's administrative board.[205]
Russia1816 in special circumstances, but different rules apply in some regions.[206]
Serbia1816 with court consent.
Slovakia1816 with court consent, with a serious reason such as pregnancy.[207]
Slovenia18Under 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).[208]
Spain1816 with court consent[209]
Sweden18Not possible to marry under the age of 18 since July 1st 2014.[210]
Turkey1817 with parental consent, 16 in special circumstances with court approval.
Ukraine18Age was equalized at 18 for both sexes in 2012, but courts may still grant permission from age 16 if there are special reasons.[212]
United Kingdom18 in most jurisdictions
16 in Scotland

England and Wales: 16 with parental consent or the permission of the court.[213]

Scotland: 16[214]

Northern Ireland: 16 with parental consent (with the court able to give consent in some cases).[215]


CountryMale consentFemale consentNotes
Australia1816 with permission from a court and both parents (only granted in exceptional circumstances).[216]
Fiji1816 with parental consent[217]
Kiribati2118 with parental consent.[218]
New Zealand1816 with parental consent.[221]
Niue211918 with parental consent males, 15 with parental consent females.[222]
Papua New Guinea21[224]
Samoa211918 with parental consent males, 16 with parental consent females.[225]
Solomon Islands1815 with parental consent.[226]
Tonga1816 for females with parental consent.[227]
Tokelau211918 with parental consent males, 16 with parental consent females.[228]
Tuvalu2116 with parental consent.[229]
Vanuatu2118 with parental consent.[230]

By religion

Catholic Church

Male consentFemale consentNotes
Catholic Church1614Diriment impediment (can. 1083 § 1).[231] Conferences of Bishops can adopt a higher age for liceity[232] (§ 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 consentFemale consentNotes
England and Wales1616[234]
New Zealand1616[233]
Nigeriasee noteEach bishop has the authority to set a higher prohibitive minimum age.[236]
Sierra Leone1816[235]


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. The Islamic Prophet Muhammad, who is said to serve as a role model (al-uswatu'l-hasana) for every Muslim, is reported by Sunni Hadith sources to have married Aisha when she was six or seven years old, with the marriage consummated when she was nine years old (or according to some sources ten years old) and he was 54 years old.[238][239][240][235][241][242]

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.[243]

Male consentFemale consentNotes

However other sources give different ages.

The Reliance of the Traveller, frequently considered the definitive summary of Shafi'i jurisprudence, states in the chapter on marriage as follows:

32.2a. A father arranging the marriage of a virgin daughter: A father can arrange the marriage of his virgin daughter without her permission even if she is beyond the age of puberty. It is up to him whether he consults her or not.
32.2b. Someone other than the father arranging the marriage of a virgin: However, if anyone other than the father is arranging the marriage of a virgin, such as a guardian appointed in the father's will or anyone else, he cannot give her in marriage unless she is beyond the age of puberty and has given her consent. In this case her silence is taken as consent.[244]

However, Shaf'i jurisprudence is contradicted by hadith from Bukhari which states that a marriage is impossible without the consent of the girl.[245]

In relation to proposed Saudi marriage reforms in 2009, it was observed that "although girls can marry even before reaching puberty, they cannot terminate the wedding contracts according to the Hanbali legal school, one of four major schools in Sunni Islam, which gives complete control over the female to the male guardian". [246]


The Manu Smriti recommends arranged marriages for girls before they are 12 years old. [247] If unmarried for 3 years after 12 years old (At 15 years old), the damsel (virgin woman) may marry on her own will somebody from her own caste and rank by freewill. [248] Bhishma states a similar thing in Anushasana Prava of the Mahabharata. If the girl is unmarried for 3 years after the appearance of puberty (after 12 years and 8 months), then in the 4th year (at 16) she is to look for a husband herself. [249]

The Manu Smriti states that a 30 year old man is to marry a 12 year old maiden (virgin woman) or a 24 year old man is to marry an 8 year old girl (child) if the duties of the man would be impeded.[250] In Anushasana Prava of the Mahabharata, Bhishma states, a 30 year old person is to marry a 10 year old girl or a 21 year old person is to marry a 7 year old girl. [251]

See also


  1. "MAJORITY -".
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