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May 22, 2012

Proposed Laws: Age of Marriage, and Sex Without Marriage

In what led to a strange exchange, the Knesset committee for laws approved of a newly proposed law, allowing it to advance to the Knesset for the three readings it requires in order to pass.

There were 5 different proposed laws on the subject of the minimum age for marriage, and the committee decided to bundle them into one proposal. The proposal is that one cannot get married before completing his or her 18th year. According to the proposal, someone who does get married before he or she is 18, and the person who conducts the marriage ceremony, will be liable under criminal charges.

Currently, the law allows one to marry from age 17, and I think even from age 16 with parental consent for religious reasons (but I am not sure if this exception is part of the law).

The purpose of the law is to bring the Israeli law in line with Western societies in which the minimum age for marriage is 18. Marriage before that age often enough leads to abuse, poverty divorce, etc.

Shas obviously opposed the law, as it is fairly common, or common enough at least, among the religious and especially among the haredi community, to marry even younger than 18. MK Nissim Zeev attacked the proposal as being anti-religious in nature. Zeev said that when the Israeli youth are living in complete chaos and disorder and having sexual relations, so that is ok because they did not go to a rabbi to register, but when someone goes to register for marriage, k'dat moshe v'yisrael, then it is prohibited?

As a result, MK Nissim Zeev said that he is going to propose a new law of his own. His new law will make it illegal to engage in sexual relations outside of marriage. Zeev adds that the irresponsibility of Israeli youth, having relations outside of marriage, causes unwanted pregnancies, leads to abortions, and this has become a serious problem.

The left, led by MK Zahava Galon (Meretz) attacked Nissim Zeev and Shas for wanting to remain in the Middle Ages, both for opposing the original law and for Nissim Zeevs proposal.

I am all for protecting youth as much as possible, though Zeev does have a point asking why it is ok to have sexual relations but not marriage. By law it is already illegal to have sex prior to the age of 16. After 16 it is legal as long as it is consensual. Just because the hormones of teenagers are raging does not mean we have to allow them to do what they want. if it is backwards to get married before 18 and the girls must be protected, I see a certain amount of sense in saying that it is just as incumbent upon us to protect the youth from the ages of 16-18 from abusive relationships. It would go far in preventing the date rape situations as well as other situations where one side does not really want it but is under pressure. If we are protecting the kids, protect them all the way and change the law to say no sex below the age of 18.

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  1. Just a thought, and to bring this to really the lowest and least common denominator. Why is it permissible for a 16yr old girl to be in a pornographic movie(which also typically leads to abuse ect) but not to get married?

    There is something seriously wrong with a country that will allow girls to be seduced itno a industry known for the exploitation of women, but will not allow them to enter into a marriage.

    1. I find the use of the phrase "in line with Western societies" pretty ridiculous, as you can marry in the US at 16 with parental consent (14 in some states if there is a pregnancy, although most Americans in most states would take issue with that). However, I thought I'd point out that the legal age to be in a pornographic movie is 18 in most countries. And just to play the devil's advocate, so to speak, marriage is supposed to be for life, so it should theoretically be a decision left to a more mature individual. In practice though, marriage can be undone, but what's on the Internet stays on the Internet forever, so I agree that the decision to be in a sex video is unfortunately, in reality, a weightier decision than marriage.

  2. Marriage is a contract, therefore, in a civil marriage, people who are not able to make a legal, binding contract should not be permitted to enter into a marriage either. But making sex outside or before marriage illegal? Or under a given age, *with* consent? That's not something the within the realm of government to permit or allow, let alone enforce. And we already have too many laws in this country that cannot be enforced.

    Personal sexual morality is a personal matter, to be inculcated by parents, teachers, and respected members of the community. As long as there is mutual consent, the individual has autonomy over him/herself.

  3. i don't understand your differentiation. if the state can regulate it until 16, why can't they regulate it until 18?

  4. A law making sexual relations "illegal" outside of marriage (applying also to 30-year-old singles, divorcees, etc.) is obviously absurd. Its only purpose is to make a point, which is fine.

    If I were consulted on this (I'm still waiting for the phone call), I'd say keep marriage "legal" from age 16 but require parental consent (and possibly "Marriage Ed." or some other requirements) under age 18. That way you lower the risk of young, naive kids making unwise choices, and you give ultra-religious communities the legal choice to follow their traditions.

    R. Tzadok - is it "permissible" for a 16 yr old to be in adult films? I don't think so. If you meant that it's not legal but allowed to go on anyway, it's not a fair comparison. It would be like saying that Israel "permits" theft because it does not clamp down hard enough on would-be burglars. Law is one thing, enforcement is another.

  5. How can you compare sex at 16 to making a lifelong contract at 16?

    Just because one has sex in marriage does not mean there are any similarities between them. After all, is sex the only or most important thing in your marriage?

    And to expect a girl of 16 to enter into a lifelong contract is cruel.

    Teenagers experimenting and exploring their bodies is normal and natural.... and is not a lifelong contract.


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