A proposed law currently under consideration by the German government would ban marriage under the age of 18.
The move follows concern about marriage involving teenagers in the country’s large migrant communities. As many as 1,475 foreign-born teenagers living in Germany are legally married, the majority girls. Of these, 361 are under the age of 14 – all married in Islamic ceremonies in other countries.
Campaigners believe the real numbers are likely to be higher as many families conceal underage marriage from the authorities.
Currently German courts can decide to allow underage spouses married abroad to remain with their husbands or wives. They also have the authority to grant discretionary marriage licences to prospective spouses aged 16 or 17, but these powers would end under the planned legislation. The minimum age for marriage would become 18 across all religions. Participants in illegal marriages would be fined and marriages conducted abroad would only be recognised if both spouses were aged 18 or over at the time.
MP Stephan Harbarth told the Stuttgarter Nachrichten newspaper.
“We want to ensure that no more religious marriage ceremonies are conducted for those aged under 18.”
A draft bill is expected later this year. Both parties in the ruling coalition government have expressed support.