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Finnish Lutheran Church seeks ban on underage marriages

At present, minors may be given permission to marry in Finland, but in recent years this has only been granted to 17-year-olds.

Vihitty mies ja nainen pitelee toisiaan kädestä
The dominant Lutheran Church wants to stop minors from getting married. Image: Paula Solloway / AOP

The state-sponsored Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church has called for a total ban on any marriages before the age of 18.

In a statement on Wednesday, the National Church Council urged an end to the current practice whereby minors can apply for special permission to wed.

The council has submitted its statement to the Ministry of Justice, which is looking into whether the law on underage marriages should be revised. Earlier this summer Justice Minister Antti Häkkänen called for a ban on special permits that allow child marriage, saying that it would be in children's best interests.

The Lutheran council argues that legislation should be in place to prevent child marriages. It notes that such a legislative change would be consistent with the Finnish justice system, which considers that an individual does not have a full right of self-determination before the age of 18.

THL: Foreign marriages must comply with Finnish law

At present, the ministry can grant permission for those under 18 to marry. In recent years, it has not been granted to anyone under 17, according to the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). It notes that a foreign marriage that violates Finnish legal standards is not recognised by Finnish authorities. “This may include a union where one person is clearly a minor or where there is a significant age difference between the partners,” the institute says.

The Evangelical Lutheran and Orthodox churches are officially state-supported in Finland. According to Statistics Finland, about 71 percent of people in the country were registered Lutherans last year, with about one percent registered with the Finnish Orthodox Church, which is separate from the Russian Orthodox Church in Finland.

4:51: Corrected and clarified name of Orthodox Church.

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