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Child marriage legal in 116 countries

People under the age of 18 can marry in as many as 116 countries around the world, new research suggests.

An analysis of data from 198 countries from the United Nations and the US State Department shows that while the majority of countries require people to be adults before they can legally marry, they have exemptions in their laws. For example, in England and Wales people under the age of 18 can marry if they have parental permission. Similar exemptions are also available in such countries as Iraq, Jamaica and Uruguay.

The information was published by the Washington DC-based organisation the Pew Research Center.

Most countries have some form of exemption to their legal minimum marriage age

In 38 countries the minimum marriage age is different for men and women, such as Bangladesh, where women can marry at 18 but men cannot until they are 21. The largest gender gap is in Sudan, where girls as young as ten years old and boys can marry at 15, neither of which require parental or judicial permission.

Out of the countries with a gender gap, 37 of them have a lower minimum age for girls. The only one that does not is the southern African nation of Lesotho, where women require parental permission to marry until they are 21 years old.

Twenty-seven countries will not allow people to marry unless they are older than 18. China is one such country, where men must be 22 and women must be 20. Meanwhile, six nations in the world do not have a legal minimum age for marriage. These are Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Gambia, Equatorial Guinea, Yemen and South Sudan.

Earlier this year, the United Nations launched a programme which aims to eliminate child marriage by 2030.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Andrew says:

    And I hope the devolved administration in Edinburgh invited them politely to get lost.

  2. Dr Grumpy says:

    I see the UN is in no hurry to deal with this problem! I have to ask why?

  3. JamesB says:

    What’s next. Perhaps moan about countries selling alcohol.

  4. The Pixel Project VAW e-News Digest: Edition 120 « The Pixel Project says:

    […] WORLD: Child marriage legal in 116 countries  […]

  5. Delphia says:

    Great article! We will be linking to this particularly great article on our site.
    Keep up the good writing.

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