Marriages below 18 to be declared child marriages

The government appears to have initiated legislative action to declare 18 as the legal marriage age for all the ethnic groups according to three private member’s bills announced in the gazette notification.

Ruling party MP Pramitha Bandara Tennakoon has worked out these three pieces of legislation as private members’ bills.

The bill titled ‘Marriage Registration (Amendment)’ has sought to amend the Marriage Registration Ordinance declaring 18 as the legal age of marriage for all the ethnic groups including Muslims. It is an amendment to do away with the exception given for Muslims below 18 to marry.

Besides, the ruling party legislator has worked out the bill titled ‘Minimum Age of Marriage’. It says, “No marriage contracted after the coming into force of this Act shall be valid unless both parties to the marriage have completed eighteen years of age.

It also says every child marriage, whether solemnised before or after the commencement of this Act, shall be voidable at the option of the contracting party who was a child at the time of the marriage.

The other bill will seek to amend the Civil Procedure Code to lay the necessary legal infrastructure to avoid child marriages among people of any ethnic group.

MP Tennakoon told this was the government’s position though he presented these bills as his private initiatives.

“We fight for a common law in the country. There are several laws dealing with marriages. We want one law for the whole country,” he said.

Once the private member’s bills are presented to Parliament, they are referred to the relevant line ministries. Mr. Tennakoon said President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is the line minister in this instance.

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