(Getty)
Spain set to raise the minimum age of marriage from 14 to 16 (Getty)

Spain looks set to raise the minimum marrying age from 14 to 16 over concerns the current laws leave children open to exploitation and forced marriage.

Under current legislation, 14-year-olds can legally marry with permission from a judge, with 16-year-olds needing parental permission to wed. Anyone over the age of 18 can marry in Spain.

Spain's parliamentary justice commission has now approved a new law to raise the minimum age to 16 with permission from a judge or parents. The legislation is now expected to be debated in the senate.

Children's rights group Unicef in Spain has campaigned for years to raise the minimum marriage age in the country. Gabriel González-Bueno, of Unicef in Spain, said children, especially girls, are more likely to have their lives severely disrupted by marrying at a young age.

He told the Guardian: "In general, we see a gender imbalance in these marriages, with the girls more likely to be younger than the boys.

"These marriages, particularly in the case of young girls, often lead to an interruption of their studies."

In the first half of 2014, four girls and four boys got married in Spain aged 14, and a further nine girls and eight boys wed at 15.

This is a significant increase from 2013, when only one 14-year-old girl and one 15-year-old boy were married.

González-Bueno believes this increase is due "anticipation of the reforms being passed" as Spain first announced its intentions to change the laws two years ago.

Spain previously raised the age of consent in the country from 13 to 16, bringing it in line with European countries such as the UK, Russia, Norway and Belgium. When it was 13, Spain's age of consent was one of the lowest in the world.

In Europe, the minimum age differs on whether parental consent is needed and on individual country's laws.

In Greece, there are no age restrictions as to when a person can get married if there are factors involved such as a pregnancy. In countries such as France or Romania, the minimum age with or without consent is 18.

Elsewhere in the world, a bride in South Africa can get married with parental consent aged 15, but cannot get married without until she is 21.

A 12-year-old bride can get married in Uruguay with parental consent, and in Columbia both the bridge and groom can get married with consent if they are 14 years old.

Minimum legal age of marriage (stats via United Nation Demographic Yearbook 2014)

Country or areaMale (with parental consent)Female (with parental consent)Male (without parental consent)Female (without parental consent)
Albania18161818
Austria16161818
Belarus1818
Belgium16161818
Bosnia and Herzegovina1818
Bulgaria16161818
Croatia16161818
Czech Republic16161818
Denmark15151818
Estonia15151818
Finland1818
France1818
Germany16161818
Gibraltar16161818
Greece1818
Hungary16161818
Iceland1818
Ireland1818
Isle of Man16161818
Italy16161818
Jersey16161818
Latvia16161818
Liechtenstein1818
Lithuania15151818
Luxembourg1816
Malta1616
Montenegro16161818
Netherlands16161818
Norway16161818
Poland1818
Portugal16161818
Republic of Moldova1816
Romania1818
Russian Federation16161818
Serbia16161818
Slovakia1616
Slovenia15151818
Spain(currently) 14(currently) 141818
Sweden1818
Switzerland16161818
TFYR of Macedonia16161818
Ukraine151817
UK16161818