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The "Appropriate Ages" For Marriage From Cultures Around The World

Updated September 23, 2021 635.5k views16 items

In the United States, the legal age of consent for marriage depends on the state. The average age is 18 to tie the knot without parental consent. But what is the average age in other areas of the world? While there's no set marriage age in many other cultures, there are certainly norms. Some countries base marriage laws on specific ages, while others require parties to have reached puberty before they can be legally wed.

When discussing marriage and sex culture around the world, it's important to acknowledge how different perceptions of maturity and religious beliefs can affect views. Many nations continue to have higher-than-usual rates of child brides, though human and women's rights activists are working to change that. The nuances of what is considered marriage-ready in terms of age varies widely from area to area - and even from person to person - but most would agree that the willingness and understanding of both parties is crucial to such a commitment.

Marriage age around the world is often higher than the age of sexual consent, sometimes even within in the same country. But regardless of your personal views on intimacy and matrimony, learning about marriage culture around the world can provide an intriguing look at how other societies live.

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  • Saudi Arabia Has No Law Governing Age For Marriage

    Photo: Noumenon / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

    There is currently no minimum age for females to marry in Saudi Arabia. Child brides as young as 8 years old have been reported in the country.

    A 2014 proposal recommended that the marriage age for women be set at 15, and that requests to marry a younger girl require consultation from medical professionals. However, Saudi Arabia’s religious leader, Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Asheikh, has said that he does not plan to restrict the minimum age for marriage for women to 15 years.

  • Angola's Age Of Consent For Physical Intimacy Is 12

    Photo: Paulo César Santos / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    While Angola's legal age to marry is 18, or 16 with parental permission, the age of consent for Angolans for physical intimacy is 12. An older partner who has an encounter with an individual under the age of 12 can be prosecuted. The law in Angola doesn't have a close-in-age exemption, either.

    This means that two minors under the age of 12 who engage in consensual acts could both be prosecuted, and that two minors close in age - say, 11 and 13 - would be at risk for legal action as well.

  • China's Age Of Physical Consent Is 14, But Marriage Age Is Between 20 And 22

    Photo: Troy Parfitt / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    In China, the age of consent is 14 for physical intimacy. Anyone who engages in this type of activity with a partner younger than 14 may be prosecuted, and the punishment is more severe if the incident involved any exchange of money for the act. The age of consent is 16 in Hong Kong, and 14 in Macau.

    Chinese women may be married at age 20, while Chinese men are allowed to get married at age 22.

  • Legal Marriage Age Varies In India

    India, with its diverse ethnic and religious populations, has a complex set of rules governing legal marriage. According to the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, women must be 18 and men must be 21 before they can be married. But this law is sometimes ignored.

    According to UNICEF, 47% of Indian girls are married by 18, and 18% are married by 15. These marriages are sometimes arranged whether the girls have agreed or not.