Article 16 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“UDHR”) lays down standards governing marriage that should be followed by all member states. Article 16 reads as follows:
- “Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
- Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
- The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”
On December 9, 1964, a treaty called the Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage, and Registration of Marriages (“convention”) was adopted by General Assembly. On November 1, 1965 the General Assembly passed a resolution namely, Recommendation on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages (“recommendation”). The convention and the recommendation roots out from Article 16 of the UDHR. According to UDHR, men and women of full age despite of race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to make a family. UDHR also recognizes family as the basic unit of a society. Therefore, in accordance with UDHR, the convention and the resolution have required all member states to grant equal rights to men and women entering into marriage and required free and full consent of the intending spouses to marriage.
The convention and the recommendation emphasizing the consensual nature of marriage have made it a rule for all the parties to be of certain minimum age by law, and mandated the registration of marriage.
Further, the convention and the recommendation have required all states to abolish any custom contradicting the freedom in choosing a spouse. Accordingly all states should aim at abolishing customs such as child marriage and betrothal of young girls before the age of puberty and should penalize any violation.