A bill to raise the legal age to marry from 17 to 18 passed its second and third reading in the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee Wednesday, clearing a major hurdle to becoming a law.
Seven MKs voted in favor of the bill while MKs Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism) and Avraham Michaeli (Shas) voted against.
“The Constitutional Committee has made a historic decision today to accept the bill I proposed to raise the [minimum] age to marry,” MK Yariv Levin (Likud) said after the vote, according to Ma’ariv. “With this we will fall in line with the developed countries of the world and put an end to forced marriages of girls at a young age. I hope that the State of Israel starts down a new path in this regard.”
The bill passed by the committee only allows marriage under the age of 18 in exceptional cases where the court grants permission. It also would require police to report to Knesset any case that violates the new law.
According to a report by the Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women at Bar Ilan-University, 4,500 minors are married in Israel every year, of whom 4,000 are girls and 500 are under the age of 16. The report also revealed that 500 girls give birth before they turn 17 and for 10 percent of them, it is not their first time.
The Central Bureau of Statistics said in a report that 4,214 people married before they turned 18, half of whom were under 17, with 10% under 16.
“The Knesset took a dramatic step and raised the [minimum] age of marriage to 18, and won’t give the High Rabbinical Court the right to appeal,” MK Zahava Gal-on (Meretz) said. “The choice to marry is personal.”
Maklev downplayed the issue of underage marriage in ultra-Orthodox society, but proposed that the law make exceptions in cases in which the High Rabbinical Court and a social worker give their approval. The committee rejected it.
“The number of minors married in the ultra-Orthodox community is small,” he said. “There are small circles such as Hasidic courts where marriage under the age of 18 is accepted.”