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Legal experts suggest raising lowest marriageable age to 21 years

June 19, 2012, 16:18 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

Russian legal experts have suggested raising the lowest marriageable age to 21 years from the current 18. Their opponents warn, though, that this will not solve the problem of early marriages.

Russia’s Justice Ministry is going to draft considerable amendments to family legislation. Legal experts have been actively discussing the idea of raising the marriage age to 21 years and of setting the minimum threshold to ensure “children should not give birth to children.” For instance, as the daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta says, such proposals were made at a conference on monitoring law enforcement, which the Justice Ministry held in St. Petersburg. The daily says that radical ideas of raising the marriage age come not from civil servants, but from legal experts. The Justice Ministry is still in the process of gathering proposals for studying them.

As lawyer Viktoria Pashkova, who participated in the conference, has said, reporters presented proposals for raising the marriage age to 21 years with no chances of reducing it to below 16 years. A person should mature first to become a full-fledged parent and to perform parental duties, including those of rearing children, they said.

The Family Code sets the marriage age at 18 years. In case of good reasons local self-governments have the right to allow young people to get married at the age of 16. Those territories of the Russian Federation that have adopted regional legal acts to lower the marriage age below the bottom limit have set their own restriction at 14 years (the Belgorod, Vladimir, Vologda and Moscow Regions).

At present 27 territories of Russia have passed laws lowering the marriage age to 14 years, and a number of them do not even contain any mention of the minimum age for persons to get married without such fundamental reasons as pregnancy, the birth of a child, threat to the life of either spouse, the bridegroom’s conscription into the army.

Experts are aware that even if age restrictions are introduced, teenagers will keep dating each other, falling in love, and sometimes having babies. In the course of the discussion the legal experts voiced the unanimous opinion the “birth of a child by children cannot be a reason for emancipation.” In other words, motherhood is not an argument for recognizing a schoolgirl and her boyfriend as adults.

It was suggested that in case a baby is born to parents under age, only motherhood should be registered, while the question of fatherhood should be postponed till 14 years. In that case the rights of children of teenage parents would be protected with the establishment of mandatory guardianship until both parents reach 18 years. The function of guardians can be performed by grandparents or specialists from guardianship authorities.

It is noteworthy that the public has welcomed the idea of raising the marriageable age. A poll by Rossiiskaya Gazeta of its readership has found that 56 percent hail the proposal for raising the minimum age for young people to get married to 21 years of age, and a mere 33 percent object to this. As many as 56 percent of the respondents say the best age for the beginning of family life is 21-25 years.

Approximately the same results were shown by an opinion poll by the Ekho Moskvy radio station.

Many argue, though, that such a step will not resolve the problems. “I believe that a marriage should be concluded when the future spouses can be responsible for one another, and for their own life,” says stage director Olesya Fokina. “Raising the age limit will not resolve a single problem. If people are mature enough for joint life, I see no reason for delaying the marriage till 21 years. Some can make mistakes at 21, and others have teenage mentality at 25 and even at 40 and 50. Such a law will not make anyone more secure. It will not give a magic wand to those who wish to have a harmonious family till the end of their days.

In their opinion, the young spouses who continue to rely on support of their parents cannot be called real ones, she believes. Families like that fall apart as soon as the newly-weds are faced with the need to survive on their own. As for the guardianship of children of little babies is concerned, Fokina believes that this is a more fundamental question for the state to address, and it has no direct bearing on the age at which marriages can be concluded and whether they should be concluded at all.

In the meantime, Russia’s near neighbors have already moved towards raising the wedding age. Ukraine last spring adopted a law raising from 17 to 18 the minimum age at which women are allowed to get married. Ukrainian men had been allowed to get married starting from 18 years of age. So men and women in Ukraine now have equal rights.

Besides, the law raised from 14 to 16 the age at which marriages can be concluded in exceptional cases.

Different countries resolve this problem in a variety of ways. On the whole, the marriage age ranges from 9 to 18 years for women and from 14 to 22 years for men. Besides, the law permits certain exceptions, and local customs make these exceptions more or less frequent. The European countries have either the same wedding age for both sexes, or the marriage age for men is slightly higher. For instance, in Hungary and Poland the marriage age is set at 18 years for men and at 16 for women. In Britain people can get married at 16, and in France, women at 15 and men, at 18.

The minimum wedding age in Colombia and Venezuela is 12 years for women and 14 years for men. Argentina and Spain allow young women to get married at 13 and, men, at 16.

In Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, according to local feudal customs, the marriage age of brides may begin as of the moment of birth to nine years of age and on.

Islam does not set the minimum age at which females can get married.

MOSCOW, June 19