The majority of countries around the world have legislation that sets a general minimum age of marriage at age 18 or above. However, legal exceptions are often foreseen, based on parental consent, authorisation from a court, or provided by customary or religious laws. According to a recent study, in only 43% of countries are boys and girls protected equally and adequately from early marriage.
In Ethiopia, the Revised Family Code (2000) protects girls and boys equally. Article 7.1) provides: “Neither a man nor a woman who has not attained the full age of eighteen years shall conclude marriage”. In 2) dispensation may be granted at the age of 16: “Notwithstanding the provisions of Sub-Article (1) of this Article, the Minister of Justice may, on the application of the future spouses, or the parents or guardian of one of them for serious cause, grant dispensation of not more than two years”.
Article 6 provides that “A valid marriage shall take place only when the spouses have given their free and full consent.”
In Australia, forced marriage is criminalised under Section 270.7A of the Criminal Code, which defines forced marriage as: (1) A marriage is a forced marriage if one party to the marriage (the victim) entered into the marriage without freely and fully consenting: (a) because of the use of coercion, threat or deception; or (b) because the party was incapable of understanding the nature and effect of the marriage ceremony.
Moreover, in (4) special protection is afforded to persons under 16 years of age: “For the purposes of proving an offence against this Division or Division 271, a person under 16 years of age is presumed, unless the contrary is proved, to be incapable of understanding the nature and effect of a marriage ceremony”. Forced marriage carries a penalty of 7 years imprisonment or 9 years imprisonment for an aggravated offence. Section 270.8 on Slavery-like offences—aggravated offences provides: (1) For the purposes of this Division, a slavery-like offence committed by a person (the offender) against another person (the victim) is an aggravated offence when (a) the victim is under 18 years of age.
On August 17, 2017, El Salvador approved an amendment to the Family Code to abolish child marriage in the country, establishing the marriage age at 18.
In June 2017, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago passed a lawPDF entitled “An Act to amend the Marriage Act, Chap. 45:01, the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, Chap. 45:02, the Hindu Marriage Act, Chap. 45:03, the Orisa Marriage Act, Chap. 45:04 and the Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Act, Chap. 45:51 ”, which changed the marriage age to 18.
In some countries femicide is often carried out with brutality that includes torture and mutilation.
In Guatemala, the Law Against Femicide and Other Forms of Violence Against Women(Decree 22-2008) defines “femicide” as the “violent death of a woman (or girl) by virtue of her gender, as it occurs in the context of the unequal gender relations between men and women.”. The penalty is from 25 to 50 year prison term (article 6). The legislation establishes specialized judicial courts and a Crimes against Life Unit, charged with reviewing and investigating cases of femicide and gender-based violence, as well as resources for the Centers of Integral Support for Female Survivors of Violence.
In Brazil, legislation amending Brazil’s Penal Code on femicide, the gender-motivated killing of women and girls, sets tougher penalties and defines “femicide” as any crime that involves domestic violence, discrimination or contempt for women, which results in their death. It imposes harder sentences for crimes committed against pregnant women, girls under 14, women over 60 and women and girls with disabilities. Brazil is the 16th Latin American state to include a femicide in its national legal framework.