The government is considering setting the minimum age for marriage at 18 nationwide, scrapping a provision introduced shortly after World War II that allows 16-year-old girls to wed, an official source said.
The provision for a unified minimum marriage age would be presented in a bill to revise the Civil Code that would also see the age of adulthood lowered to 18 from 20, the source said Thursday.
Under the current Civil Code, parental consent is required for any marriage in which the parties are under 20.
When the original civil law was enacted in the late 19th century, the minimum marriage age was set at 17 for males and 15 for females. Such rules were introduced on the grounds that girls develop more quickly than boys, but legal experts have argued there are no rational reasons to set different marriage ages by gender, given the number of marriages involving 16-year-olds has been declining with the social advancement of women.
In 2015, 1,357, or only 0.2 percent, of the roughly 630,000 women who registered their marriages were 16 and 17, according to a Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry tally.
If the Civil Code is revised, the government plans to set a notification period for the change lasting around three years.
The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has criticized the current provision for its differing marriage ages.
The Justice Ministry, however, is likely to forgo submitting the bill to the current Diet session because it is still trying to pass a contentious bill that would add a charge of conspiracy to commit terrorism to the law on organized crime, according to the source.