Article 16: Right to Marriage.

  • 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 the 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.

This article is divided into three paragraphs stating rights regarding marriage, family, and divorce. The first paragraph explicitly states that men and women have equal rights to marry, have a family, and also to divorce. In many countries all over the world, women don’t have the option to divorce her husband, and if she does, she often will be facing discrimination from the surrounding society. 

The second paragraph focuses on the right to only be married with full consent. This, in addition to the first paragraph mentioning “of full age”, is addressing the worldwide issue with forced and underage marriages. Huge amounts of young girls are forced to marry a man, often much older. Approximately 12 million girls all over the world are married before the age of 18 every year. For example, in 2018 a report on the Kyrgyz Republic concluded the government had failed to protect women and girls from forced marriage, “The Kyrgyz Republic had knowingly failed to take effective measures to address discriminatory stereotypes and norms that legitimize bride kidnapping, as well as to enforce the existing laws criminalizing the practice alongside child marriage”  

The third paragraph emphasizes the importance of family and explicitly places the responsibility to protect family life with the state. The state has the duty to ensure that every individual can exercise these rights and the state is also obliged to protect its citizens from violations, such as protecting underage girls from being forced to marry, women not being able to divorce, etc. The focus on the state’s duties to protect these rights should be seen in the light of World War II. It is a response to the Nazi laws prohibiting inter-racial and same-sex marriages. To this day, many states around the world still fail to recognize the marriage rights of the LGBTQ+ community. It is still illegal in 78 countries. For example, this year the president of Russia has submitted a draft amendment to their constitution that would only recognize marriage between a man and a woman. Because this article specifies men and women in the first paragraph, it has been considered by some to exclude LGBTQ+ persons from the right to marriage. However, in recent years the article is widely accepted and interpreted as giving men and women equal rights, rather than stating that marriage is between men and women. Men and Women have equal rights to marry, divorce, and start a family with whomever they choose, whether that be same-sex or opposite-sex unions.

Written by Nanna Orloff Mortensen and Natalia Colmenar

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