The Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Monday passed on first reading a bill raising the legal age of marriage from 17 to 18. The bill, proposed by MK Yariv Levin (Likud) and Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On, is seeking to place criminal liability on couples who tie the knot below the permitted age, or those who wed them.
The bill stipulates that only under special circumstances, the Family Court can allow matrimony under the age that is set by law.
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The phenomenon of marriage among minors is quite frequent in Israel, especially in the Georgian, Caucasian, Arab and haredi sectors. However, there are no exact figures indicating the scope of the phenomenon.
During the discussion preceding the vote, Shas expressed staunch objection to the bill, MK Nissim Zeev calling it an "anti-religious law," and urging Committee Chairman MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) to remove it from the agenda altogether.
Bill co-initiator MK Gal-On said the current situation is intolerable: "There are groups in the population who wed their children at a young age and only register the marriage at a later stage, which leads to divorce, economic hardship and domestic violence.
"I heard testimonies that these marriages are sone coercively; in most of the world countries, the minimal marriage age is 18, and we should aspire to be more like the enlightened Western world," she said.
MK Levin, who co-authored the bill, added that "early marriage condemns women to a life of poverty, lack of education and dependency."
"The phenomenon is widespread among closed societies, and therefore there is no enforcement, but nevertheless we need to set a norm," he said.
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