Spain to keep minimum marriage age at 14: government

3rd February 2011, Comments 0 comments

Spain said Thursday it has no immediate plans to raise the minimum legal age for marriage from 14, one of the lowest in Europe, to bring it in line with UN recommendations.

"What I want to say very clearly is that, at the moment, we are not planning any legislative change to the penal code" about the minimum age of marriage, Health Minister Leire Pajin told Spanish public television.

She said however that there is "a technical discussion of a law that we want to present to protect minors... and in that discussion, children's organisations point out that the United Nations" recommends raising the minumum age to 16 from 14 in Spain.

"Spain is one of the few countries in this region where (the minimum marriage age) is so low and it is a demand of children's protection organisations each time there is a debate on the protection of minors, but it is not an objective" of the government, she added.

Marriage at 14 is legal in Spain but only with the permission of a judge and the consent of the family.

A total of 326 children aged 15 or younger have married in the period 2000-2008, the Europa Press news agency said, quoting official statistics.

Spain leading daily El Pais said experts on the committee studying child protection laws have recommended to the government it raise the age to 16 in line with the view of the UN's Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Yolanda Roman, of charity Save the Children, said "consent at that age (of 14) is relative, because it is a sensitive age in which the emotional and psychological development is not complete.

"There are situations of paternal or spousal domination that the child does not dare to question, so it seems opportune and necessary to raise the minimum age for marriage," she told El Pais.

Last October, a 10-year-old Romanian girl gave birth in southern Spain, provoking alarm and outrage throughout the country.

Spain's socialist government last year introduced new legislation that allows girls from age 16 to have abortions provided they inform their families or if they face "a clear risk of family violence, threats, pressure or mistreatment."

© 2011 AFP

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