The German government agreed on a proposal Wednesday to outlaw child marriages after finding more than 1,500 cases of immigrant minors having adult spouses.
The Central Register of Foreign Nationals has documented a surge in child marriages in recent years. As of July 2016, 1,500 minors of non-German background were registered as married, including 361 under the age of 14.
The largest group of child brides, 664 minors, come from Syria followed by Afghanistan and Iraq.
“Children do not belong at the wedding altar, they belong in school,” Justice Minister Heiko Maas said Wednesday. “We cannot tolerate any marriages that might harm the natural development of minors.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet wants to annul all marriages where a participant was under the age of 16 at the time of the wedding. Courts would further have the power to nullify marriages involving a person between 16 and 18 years of age.
The current age of consent for all marriages is 16 in Germany. Since the country doesn’t recognize “religious marriages,” authorities can’t do anything to stop the practice from taking place in many cases.
Schools across the country have warned that young girls frequently stop showing up to school after getting married.
“There are frequently cases where a girl, usually between 13 and 15 years of age, suddenly no longer come to school,” an anonymous teacher told newspaper Welt am Sonntag last August.
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