Increase in minimum marriage age to face final Knesset vote

Bill proposes to increase minimum legal marriage age to 18 to prevent minors from getting married when they are not prepared.

Couple holding a wedding rings 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Couple holding a wedding rings 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The minimum legal marriage age will be increased to 18, according to a bill approved for its final votes by the Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee on Wednesday.
The legislation, proposed by coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud Beytenu), Meretz leader Zehava Gal- On and MK Dov Henin (Hadash), among others, raises the minimum age for marriage by one year. In some cases a court can authorize a marriage for someone age 16 and up, but the judge will have to hear testimony from the bride or groom.
The purpose of the bill is to prevent minors from getting married when they are not prepared to make such a major life decision. It is also meant to encourage more teenagers to finish high school.
The legislation will have to pass second and third (final) readings in the plenum before becoming law.
“The Constitution Committee made a historic decision,” Levin said. “Israel is now in line with progressive countries and we are putting an end to minors being forced to get married at a young age.”
Gal-On, who proposed similar bills in the previous three Knessets, said “the main victims of these marriages are young women whose families force or pressure them to get married out of an idea that a woman’s place is in the home and her job is to give birth to and raise children.
“We want women to get married out of agreement and understand of the ramifications of marriage and having children,” Gal-On explained.
If the marriage age remains at 17, “the freedom of choice will be for parents, not for children,” MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) said. “This bill defends the rights of minors.
Tradition didn’t give them free choice.”
UTJ MK Uri Maklev opposed the bill, saying it “harms normative population groups who want their youth to get married young, because that is their tradition.
This is a violation of civil rights.”
MK Avraham Michaeli (Shas) warned that the legislation would encourage “pirated” weddings for populations that disagree with the law.
The Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women at Bar-Ilan University said that over 4,500 minors are married in a year, 4,000 of whom are women. About half of the married minors are Jewish, and approximately 500 of them are under 16. Over 500 girls a year give birth before they are 17 years old.
“The existing law was passed over 60 years ago and does not fit with social developments and research on the topic since then,” Rackman Center chairwoman Prof. Ruth Halperin- Kadari said. “The time has come to adopt this law in Israel and prevent early marriage and motherhood by women who are not ready for it physically or mentally.
Raising the minimum marriage age also decreases womens’ exposure to violence in the family.”