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20 in China, 12 in Trinidad: Legal Marriage Ages Across Globe as India Proposes to Raise Ceiling for Women

By: News Desk


Last Updated: December 16, 2021, 22:22 IST

New Delhi

A couple poses for a wedding photo shoot amid snowfall at the Imperial Ancestral Temple in Beijing. (Image: Reuters)

A couple poses for a wedding photo shoot amid snowfall at the Imperial Ancestral Temple in Beijing. (Image: Reuters)

Government sources said the proposed legislation will result in women attaining psychological maturity before marriage and exercising better reproductive rights.

The Union Cabinet has decided to make the minimum marriageable age of girls religion-neutral at 21 years of age to introduce a new law that will amend the ‘The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006’ (PCMA). Government sources also said that The Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, is likely to be introduced in Parliament next week.

Government sources said the Right to Equality and Right against Exploitation under the Constitution of India guarantees gender equality, and the proposed legislation is a “strong measure towards the commitment of the government for the same as it will bring women on equal footing with males".

The sources also added that as India progresses, further opportunities will open up for women to pursue higher education and careers.

“There are imperatives for lowering Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR), Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and improvement in nutrition levels as well as an increase in Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB). These are the main reasons for effecting the proposed legislation. It will also result in women attaining psychological maturity before marriage, exercising better reproductive rights and better place in life skills including family planning, use of contraceptives etc,” the source said.


Here’s a look at some countries and their legal marriage age and how they compare with India.

Estonia Has the Lowest Marriage Age at 15 in Europe

Estonia now has the lowest marriage age in Europe, with teenagers able to marry at the age of 15 with parental consent. Meanwhile, the Spanish government announced in 2015 that it would raise the marriage age from 14 to 16 in order to bring it in line with the rest of Europe, a report by the Independent states.

United Kingdom

People in England and Wales can marry at the age of 18 or, with parental consent, at the age of 16 or 17.

However, there is no law prohibiting religious or cultural ceremonies held under this age that are not registered with local councils, according to a BBC report.

Some Girls Can Marry by 12 in Trinidad and Tobago

According to the US State Department’s 2014 human rights report on Trinidad and Tobago, while the official marital age is 18 for men and women, Muslims and Hindus have their own Marriage Act. Muslims can marry at the age of 16 for men and 12 for girls, while Hindus can marry at the ages of 18 and 14. The table shows the ages for Muslim marriage.

United States

The marriage age in the United States is determined by each state and territory, either by statute or by common law. In most states, an individual can marry when they reach the age of 18, with the exception of Nebraska, where the general marriage age is 19, and Mississippi, where the general marriage age is 21. In most states, the general marriage age is the age of majority; however, in Alabama, the general marriage age is 18 and the age of majority is 19.

In recent years, there has been a trend toward lowering the general marriage age and raising the age for women to match that of men. According to reports, Massachusetts allows girls as young as 12 to marry under “exceptional circumstances" with the permission of a judge.


In China, marriage registration procedures have always had an age limit. Currently, the legal marriage age for men is 22 and for women, it is 20. However, arguments have been made for lowering the age limit.

A member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference proposed lowering the legal marriage age to 18 at this year’s annual Two Sessions. The suggestion sparked debate on the internet, the Beijing review reported, saying that supporters argue that lowering the legal marriage age is necessary in China, where the number of marriage registrations has been declining for five years in a row. It can help to increase fertility in the face of an ageing population and solve the problem of a demographic imbalance. Opponents argue, however, that most people are still students at the age of 18 and are not yet mature enough to marry. They also do not have the financial means to support a family.

Child Marriage Legal in Niger

Child marriage is addressed in Niger by family law, which is a branch of law formed by various sources, including the Civil Code, customs, and international legal instruments. The minimum age for marriage in the Civil Code is 18 years for boys and 15 years for girls, highlighting a significant gender gap in the matter, but most unions take place under customary law.

It is estimated that 76 percent of Niger’s girls marry before the age of 18, and 28 percent marry before the age of 15, a report by Humanium states. According to UNICEF, Niger has the highest rates of child marriage in the world, putting the country at the top of the international rankings. Children in rural areas are more affected than those in urban areas in this country. Aside from that, educated girls are less likely to be subjected to this practise than those who did not have the opportunity to attend school. The poorer the family, the more likely the girl will be subjected to this practice for economic reasons.

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first published:December 16, 2021, 12:58 IST
last updated:December 16, 2021, 22:22 IST