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Picture: Oliver Li

The government has decided to end child marriages in Finland. It’s proposing that the exceptive act, which has made them possible, will be terminated.

In result, in this country, under 18-year-olds would not be able to tie the knot.

Member of Parliament Eeva-Johanna Eloranta (SDP) has been fighting to end these marriages—which have already been banned in Sweden, Denmark and Norway—since her re-election to the parliament in 2015. That’s when she filed a written question to the government.

“Even one child marriage is one too many,” Eloranta said in an interview with Finland Today. “The process has been long, but it feels wonderful that as a member of the parliament one can affect the legislation even if the amendment is not part of the official government program,” she continued.

The number of child marriages in Finland has been decreasing in the past 20 years but still, about 30 underaged couples become husband and wife yearly. During the years 1995-2014, according to the Family Federation of Finland, a total of 1,138 minors got married. “It’s an outrageous number if you think about it,” Eloranta said.

“It’s an outrageous number if you think about it,” Eloranta said.

Exemptive pregnancy

The reasons for child marriages include religion, pregnancy and culture. In practice, the exemption for an underaged marriage has been granted due to the pregnancy of a minor, because, according to Eloranta, in the past few years Ministry of Justice has not given marriage rights to any couples under 17 for reasons of religion or culture. Marriages granted for under 16-year-olds are very rare in Finland.

According to the UN, child marriage is a human rights violation. Globally, an estimated 12 million girls are married every year before their 18th birthday, according to global campaign group Girls Not Brides.

Of the Nordic countries, Norway is the most recent to pass the ban on child marriages. “We really want other countries in Europe to copy this law. This should be the standard,” said Siv Meisingseth, a spokeswoman at aid agency Plan International, to Reuters.

Finnish Minister of Justice Antti Häkkänen is also out to set an example. “By giving up the exceptive act, we are also giving an international signal that we do not accept underaged marriages,” Häkkänen said in a bulletin.

According to Eloranta, the ban could likely become effective at the beginning of 2019.

Tony Öhberg