A Cabinet-level committee Sunday approved by a 5-1 vote a proposed law limiting marriages to those who are at least 18 years old, except for special circumstances. The current law allows marriages from the age of 17.
Likud Knesset Member Yariv Levin, sponsor of the bill, explained that his intention is to protect minors, especially girls, who often are forced to marry because of conditions of poverty or threats of violence.
The bill would provide exceptions for special circumstances, which were not spelled out, and it is not known if it would include Orthodox and hareidi religious couples who sometimes marry at the age of 17, and in rare cases at 16.
The Talmudic tractate ”Ethics of the Father,” or “Pirke Avot,” advises that 18 is the suitable age for marriage.
Shas religious party Minister Meshulam Nahari was the only committee member to oppose the bill, which will come before the Knesset for a preliminary vote. One objection to the proposed law is that it ignores the phenomena of young couples living together without marrying.
The Justice Ministry supported the bill that would bring Israel in line with most countries, but a Welfare Ministry official warned that without dealing with the problem of teenage pregnancies, the bill might harm many young girls.
MK Levin said, “The bill would save thousands of girls from forced marriages and will award them the opportunity to…learn and begin a career. This is a social law that will have a direct influence on the weaker sector of society.”