Shout Out: Gambia and Tanzania

I just received this email from the anti-slavery charity Walk Free and I think this is super important to talk about.

Gambia and Tanzania have banned child marriage.

This essentially mean that no longer can anyone under the age of 18 been forced to marry. While good for all children, it is especially good for girls; as they are much more likely to be forced into marriage. #thankspatriarchy

ban child marraiage

So while this is fantastic news (and I definitely think you should share it, connect with Walk Free on social media), we still have a way to go.

Most countries set the marriageable age at their age of majority (generally 18) because if you’re old enough to vote, to join the army, to drive, to have sex, to finish school and to work full-time, why should you not be allowed to marry?

While I think that 18 is still a little young to make such a big decision, marriage, while not necessarily for life anymore, is not a small deal. But then, neither is joining the army, so we’ll just skip over that.

The age of marriage with parental consent can be a couple of years younger, however, that sometimes means parents consenting on behalf of their children – dodgy!

So let’s take a look through all the countries that allow minors to marry.

For minors, I mean anyone under the age of 18; you may argue that 16 year-olds are capable of making complex decisions (and I’m sure they can and do) but most 16-year-olds cannot vote, drive or drink because the brain (particularly the part that controls impulses) will not finish developing until your twenties.


Countries with no minimum age for marriage

Saudi Arabia

Countries with a marriageable age under 18

Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Liberia, Lebanon, Niger, North Korea, Pakistan, Palestine , Qatar, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Scotland,
Togo, Timor-Leste, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Yemen

The majority of these countries are allowing marriage at 15/16/17. In Equatorial Guinea, it’s 12. In some, the age, despite already being under 18 can be lowered further with parental permission or if the girl is pregnant.

Countries with an age of consent under 18 if certain requirements are met

Argentina, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Antigua & Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Belgium, Bulgaria, Brunei, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, England, Finland, Fiji, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Iraq, Iceland, Ireland, Italy,  Kenya, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Jamaica, Japan, Laos, Lesotho, Libya, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Mozambique, Myanmar, Mexico, Nicaragua, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Northern Ireland, Panama, Puerto Rico, Poland, Portugal, Oman, Rwanda, Romania, Russia, Saint Lucia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Singapore, Somalia, Swaziland, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sudan, Suriname, Syria, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Taiwan, Tunisia, Turkey, Trinidad & Tobago, Tuvalu,  Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States, Venezuela, Wales, Zimbabwe

Most of the countries (especially Western countries) in our last list require parental permission if the young person is 16 or 17, and as a society, we’ve decided we’re pretty much okay with that. I’m not, but hey, we’ll move on.

Some of them allow marriages below the age of 18 if the couple has been proven to have prior sexual intercourse or the girl is pregnant. While the laws don’t explicitly say it, I have a suspicion that this is less ‘allowed’ and more ‘required’.

Some of them allow marriages to take place with parental permission once the girl is nine.

So, I’ll concede that a 16y/o English couple may wish to get married and if their parents don’t give permission, the teenagers might be headstrong enough to hop on a train headed to Scotland and get married there. I don’t understand that but I’m willing to admit it can and does happen.

However, if your nine-year-old came up to you and told you she wanted to get married, you’d probably just smile and nod and wait for her to grow out of her crush on Aaron Carter Harry Styles. Even, if she said she wanted to get married to her best friend who she’d known since she was born, you wouldn’t give permission.


Because it’s insane.

But that is not what’s happening in any country that allows pre-teens to get married. The nine-year-old girl is not asking her parents’ permission because she wants to get married; the parents consent instead of her. She doesn’t want to get married to a much older man (they’re very rarely getting married to boys of their own age, in fact, the marriageable age for boys is often higher than girls), and get pregnant while still going through puberty.


For more organisations that are working to put an end to child marriage and what you can do to help, visit the UN’s Population Fund, Plan and Girls, Not Brides.




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