CRIN believes that the Committee on the Rights of the Child's position on the minimum age of marriage - 18 with exceptions for over 16s in strict circumstances and with judicial permission - provides a 'purist' children’s rights perspective. This focuses on forced marriage as the problem, rather than marriage per se.

That said, in practice, many cases that come before the courts operate in a context that condones child marriage. Any exception to a minimum age of 18 should only be acceptable where judicial persmission puts individual’s best interests at the forefront of decision making.

In addition:

  • Parental consent should not be a consideration.
  • The minimum age of marriage should be uniform across the State for all groups.
  • The law on sexual consent and rape must be the same within and outside of marriage.

CRIN acknowledges the reality that in many cultures children continue to be forced into marriage. There are also challenges in determining what constitutes free and informed consent. All individuals entering into marriage should have avenues available to leave. A list of points marriage should not imply should be also be noted, such as sexual consent.

Any legislative changes or enforcement must be accompanied by measures to change social norms promoting child marriage.

Read more on page 18 of our discussion paper Age is Arbitrary: Discussion paper on setting minimum ages.

Access to justice

Where a child is forced into marriage, they must be able to seek access to justice. It is crucial that children are able to bring complaints independently of their parents or guardian given that many children are forced into this situation by those who are meant to protect them. Children must have a range of avenues to challenge violations of their rights, including in the national legal system and at the regional and international level. Find relevant case law.

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