marriages and child marriages
The Parliamentary Assembly is deeply concerned about the serious and recurrent
violations of human rights and the rights of the child which are constituted
by forced marriages and child marriages.
The Assembly observes that the problem arises chiefly in migrant communities
and primarily affects young women and girls.
It is outraged by the fact that, under the cloak of respect for the culture
and traditions of migrant communities, there are authorities which tolerate
forced marriages and child marriages although they violate the fundamental
rights of each and every victim.
The Assembly defines forced marriage as the union of two persons at least
one of whom has not given their full and free consent to the marriage.
Since it infringes the fundamental human rights of the individual, forced
marriage can in no way be justified.
The Assembly stresses the relevance of United Nations General Assembly
Resolution 843 (IX) of 17 December 1954 declaring certain customs, ancient
laws and practices relating to marriage and the family to be inconsistent
with the principles set forth in the Charter of the United Nations and
in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Assembly defines child marriage as the union of two persons at least
one of whom is under 18 years of age.
The Assembly deplores the drastic effects of marriage on married children.
Child marriage in itself infringes their rights as children. It is prejudicial
to their physical and psychological welfare. Often
an obstacle to school attendance, child marriages may be prejudicial
to children's access to education and their intellectual and social development,
in that they restrict their horizon to the family circle.
The Assembly is appalled to find that some national legislation permits
the marriage of minors, sometimes in a discriminatory fashion with gender-based
differences in minimum ages.
Such marriages should, in fact, no longer take place in our societies,
which uphold human rights and the rights of the child. In that respect,
the Assembly concurs with the considerations set out in the 1962 United
Nations Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and
Registration of Marriages which reaffirms that all States, including
those which have or assume responsibility for the administration of Non-Self-Governing
and Trust Territories until their achievement of independence, should
take all appropriate measures with a view to abolishing such customs,
ancient laws and practices by ensuring, inter alia, complete freedom
in the choice of a spouse, eliminating completely child marriages and
the betrothal of young girls before the age of puberty, establishing
appropriate penalties where necessary and establishing a civil or other
register in which all marriages will be recorded.
The right to marry is recognised in Article 12 of the European Convention
on Human Rights. The Assembly nevertheless recalls the further provision
in this article for the exercise of this right to be governed by national
It therefore stresses the need to take the requisite legislative measures
to prohibit child marriage by making 18 years the minimum marriageable
age. Thus, persons not having reached this age would not be able to lawfully
The Assembly therefore recommends that Council of Europe member states
take the following legal measures regulating the right to marry:
ratify the 1962 Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage
and Registration of Marriages, if they have not yet done so;
ratify the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
against Women and the amendment and protocol thereto, if they have not
yet done so;
ensure their compliance with Council of Europe Committee of Ministers Recommendation
Rec(2002)5 on the protection of women against violence.
The Assembly urges the national parliaments of the Council of Europe
member states to:
renegotiate, discard or denounce any sections of international agreements
and rules of international private law contrary to the fundamental principles
of human rights, particularly as regards personal status;
adapt their domestic legislation, if appropriate, so as to:
fix at or raise to 18 years the minimum statutory age of marriage for
women and men;
make it compulsory for every marriage to be declared and entered by
the competent authority in an official register;
institute an interview between the registrar and the bride and groom
prior to the celebration of the marriage and allow a registrar who
has doubts about the free and full consent of either or both parties
to summon either or both of them separately to another meeting;
refrain from recognising forced marriages and child marriages contracted
abroad except where recognition would be in the victims best
interests with regard to the effects of the marriage, particularly
for the purpose of securing rights which they could not claim otherwise;
facilitate the annulment of forced marriages and possibly automatically
annul such marriages;
lay down a maximum period of one year, in so far as practicable, to
investigate and rule on an application for annulment of a forced marriage
or a child marriage;
regard coercive sexual relations victims are subjected to within forced
marriages and child marriages as rape;
consider the possibility of dealing with acts of forced marriage as an
independent criminal offence, including aiding and abetting the contracting
of such a marriage.
debate on 5 October 2005 (29th Sitting) (see Doc.
10590, report of the Committee
on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, rapporteur: Mrs Zapfl-Helbling;
and Doc. 10678,
opinion of the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee, rapporteur:
Text adopted by the Assembly on 5 October 2005 (29th Sitting).