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Justice Minister calls for child marriage ban in Finland

The most common grounds for granting a special permit for marriage involving a child is religious belief.

Antti Häkkänen
Justice Minister Antti Häkkänen. Image: Jarno Kuusinen / AOP

Justice Minister Antti Häkkänen has called for a ban on special permits that allow child marriage. The minister said that it is in children's best interests to outlaw child marriage in Finland.

“For example, in my view religious or cultural practices are not strong enough grounds to allow child marriage, not even with a special permit,” Häkkänen said in a statement issued on Friday.

According to the ministry, in recent years officials received between 10 and 30 applications each year for a special permit for children to marry. Last year there were 11 such applications and seven permits were granted.

The ministry said that the majority of the minors granted permission to marry last year were 17 year-old girls. The most common reason given in the applications was religious beliefs.

Permits issued to under-17 year-olds were granted in cases that involved pregnancy.

On Friday the ministry released a memo that reviewed the special permit process for underage marriage. The report recommended completely giving up the practice in Finland.

Minister Häkkänen said that his ministry would next circulate the memo for commenting, following which he would decide on whether or not to begin work on legislative changes.

The Justice Minister noted that practices that made child marriage possible had been given up or were being abandoned in nearly all other Nordic countries.

In Finland the legal age of consent is 16.

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