To explore the full set of age-related legislation in the area of Social participation,
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social participation

The legislation regarding social participation varies significantly across the region, particularly in the spheres of marriage and sexual relationships. The region spans countries that permit same-sex marriage and those that punish homosexual acts with imprisonment, but there are clear trends and similarities amongst countries in the same geographic sub-region.

Broadly, the CEE/CIS region is in line with international standards in terms of heterosexual marriage and equality between the sexes in most countries, with only a couple notable exceptions that permit marriage lower than the recommended minimum.

Marriageable ages

The joint General Comment/Recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Chils and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women calls for a minimum legal age of marriage for girls and boys ”with or without parental consent, at 18 years. When exceptions to marriage at an earlier age are allowed in exceptional circumstances, the absolute minimum age is not below 16 years”.

In the CEE / CIS region all countries but two have set the minimum age of marriage, without parental consent or authorisation of the court at the age of 18 for boys and girls. In Turkey the age is set at 17 for both boys and girls. In Uzbekistan the minimum marriageable age without parental or judicial consent for girls is 17 years, while it is 18 for males. This can be seen as an example of legal frameworks that reinforce, rather than challenge, gender inequalities.

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Marriagable ages without consent female



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Marriagable ages without consent male

In the majority of countries this age can be lowered, either by parental or judicial consent, often but not always with the explicit requirement of proving a child’s capacity. Only one country discriminates between boys and girls in marriage with consent: Albania. Here, a female’s marriageable age can be lowered to 16 with the consent of her parents or the court, while it remains at 18 for males.

In the region, Ukraine and Belarus are the only countries to permit marriages under the age of 16 years. In Ukraine, males and females are allowed to marry at 14 years: “Upon application of a person that has attained 14 years, a court may grant him/her the right to marry if it is found than such a marriage satisfies his/her interests” (Family Code of Ukraine 2002 Article 23). In Belarus, boys’ and girls’ marriageable ages may be lowered to 15 “in exceptional cases, due to pregnancy, childbirth, and in the case of acquisition of a minor full capacity before reaching adulthood” (Belarus Civivl Code 1998, Article 20) and needs to be approved by local authorities. In these two countries, marriageable ages are below the recommended “absolute minimum age” cited above.

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Marriagable ages with consent – difference to without consent female



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Marriagable ages with consent – difference to without consent male

Consent and equality

In the region, the age of consent was rarely explicitly stated as a positive age at which children are permitted to engage in sexual activity, but mostly defined in criminal legislation as the minimum age at which sexual activities between or with a minor would not automatically lead to prosecution. The only anomaly in this category is Belarus, which sets a higher age of consent to sexual activity than the minimum age of heterosexual marriage with consent. Across the region, the age of consent is equal amongst males and females for heterosexual and homosexual sexual relations – though rarely distinguished in legislation – except for the specific cases where male homosexual acts remain illegal, such as in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

A majority of countries do not have any specific legislation on same-sex marriage, often meaning that same-sex marriage is not possible. According to ILGA, the only country in the region to specifically permit same-sex civil unions is Croatia. Interestingly, in Croatia, the only country where civil unions between homo-sexual partners are allowed, there are no exceptions to lower the marriageable age, they are not allowed under the age of 18.