The Malta Independent 26 November 2022, Saturday
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Legal age of marriage should be raised to 18 – Office of the Commissioner for Children

Semira Abbas Shalan Sunday, 2 October 2022, 08:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

The legal age of marriage should be raised to 18 years to specifically prevent children from being promised for arranged marriages by their parents, the Office of the Commissioner for Children said.

Cultural and legal experts last Sunday told The Malta Independent on Sunday that child marriages are not technically a crime in Malta under the nation’s criminal code. This newsroom sent questions to the Office of the Commissioner for Children over concerns about child marriages taking place illegally in foreign communities in the country.

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Girls as young as 12 have been reportedly disappearing from their classroom after being married off to older men. The experts said that individuals who engage in this practice could only be prosecuted on the grounds of “ill-treatment of a child” as the law does not recognise any of these marriages.

The Office was asked what it would propose to tackle the issue, as well as if it will urge government to propose laws which specifically target child marriage.

“The Office has always advocated for the legal age of marriage to be raised to 18 (current legislation permits 16- and 17-year-olds to get married with their parent/guardian’s consent), specifically to prevent children from being promised for arranged marriages by their parents,” it said.

It also said that child early and forced marriage (CEFM) is detrimental to the best interests of the child since it can negatively impact the personal and educational development of children and exposes them to the risk of exploitation and abuse.

The Office of the Commissioner also said that CEFM has been a concern for a number of years and it has continually advocated for adequate protection of children. It said that this was shown through its Annual reports in 2018, 2020 and 2021.

“Even though there are measures in place to protect children from CEFM, stronger efforts should be made to raise awareness of the harmful effects of CEFM; to enhance the training of professionals and other key persons as well as to improve mechanisms and procedures to better identify children at risk,” it said.

The Office called for more efforts to be made to identify, refer, protect and support victims, and for perpetrators to be promptly prosecuted.

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