MADRID (REUTERS) - Spain raised the minimum age for marriage and sexual relations to 16 on Thursday, from 14 and 13 respectively, bringing the country into line with much of Europe after protests from child protection groups.
Spanish law until now had allowed 14-year-olds to marry with permission from a judge.
The government said two years ago it would change the law with the aim of protecting children from forced marriage and exploitation, and the legislation came into effect on Thursday.
Very few children under 16 have married in Spain in recent years - just five last year and two in 2013, according to official statistics.
In fact, a brutal recession that led to one of the highest youth unemployment rates in Europe means young people are staying at home for longer and marrying later.
The average age for tying the knot stands at 37 for men and 34 for women, statistics show.
The minimum age for sexual relations was also raised on Thursday, from 13 to 16, after international bodies including the United Nations and the European Council pressed for a change.
Spain now has the same age of consent as France, Britain, and the Netherlands, and higher than Germany and Italy, where it is 14.