Public opinion divided over legal marital age

KIGALI - Young Rwandans want the legal age for marriage to be lowered to 18 from 21, while older Rwandans want it even higher, if it must change, a new study has revealed.

KIGALI - Young Rwandans want the legal age for marriage to be lowered to 18 from 21, while older Rwandans want it even higher, if it must change, a new study has revealed.

The study, conducted in various districts, was carried out by a special parliamentary team working on the amendment of the bill determining the legal age for marriage.

In Karongi district, most parents said that at 18, both the boys and girls are mentally immature, dependent and still in school.

They feared lowering the legal marital age would lead to a possible increase of divorces and family conflicts.
The parents also expressed concern that, if passed, the law may cause students to drop out of school.

Most of the youth interviewed said that getting married at 18 was ideal since it will discourage them from getting involved irresponsible sexual behaviors that would put their lives in danger.

Legal experts from the Ministry of Justice said the amendment is aimed at harmonizing various legal sections that contradict the age at which one is considered an adult.

Such sections include those related to criminal liability, stipulating at what age one is considered a minor or an adult, and the legal voting age.

MP Agnes Nyirabagenzi, who was part of the team that surveyed Karongi, said public opinion would be highly valued in seeking a resolution with regard to the national and individual interests.

“We will weigh them (public views) by considering the possible effect to the general public as well as the nation at large,” she said.

42.7 percent of the Rwandan population is below 14 years, while 54 percent are between 15 to 64 years.

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