Published on Data Blog

The age of marriage & legal gender differences - 3 charts for International Women’s Day

As we mark International Women’s day, I’ve been considering how laws often apply differently to men and women. When they work well,  laws ensure greater gender equality, offer protection against child marriage and domestic violence, and open up economic opportunities for women and girls.

Girls can often be married under the age of 18 with parental consent  

A new policy paper from the Women, Business and The Law team discusses laws that protect women from violence. Child marriage is one of the first issues they address - each year 15 million girls around the world are married before they are 18 . Even where the legal age of marriage is 18 or above, many countries allow countries allow girls to be married earlier with parental consent.

And 17 economies have a different legal age of marriage for boys than for girls. Where this is the case, girls are allowed to get married at a younger age:

Almost all countries have laws that apply differently to men and women  

The legal age of marriage above is just one example of a “legal gender difference”. Widespread legal gender differences affect women’s economic prospects—for example, by making it difficult for women to own property, open bank accounts, start businesses, and enter certain professions.

You can access more data from the Women Business and the Law site and on the our Gender Data Portal.


Tariq Khokhar

Global Data Editor & Senior Data Scientist

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