Cambodia sets marriage age limit for foreign husbands

By Guy Delauney
BBC News, Phnom Penh

image captionThere has been a mixed reaction to the ruling in Cambodia

Cambodia has imposed a partial ban on foreign men marrying local women - would-be bridegrooms will now have to be less than 50 years old.

The government says it is trying to prevent exploitation - and promote true love and what it calls "honest marriages".

But there has been a mixed reaction to the ruling. The ban does not affect foreign women - or Cambodian men.

Some participants in mixed marriages have said the ban is discriminatory.

A traditional Cambodian wedding is hard to miss - there's usually a red and white marquee blocking off half the road in front of the bride's house, and loudspeakers blasting out anything from Khmer wedding music to the chants of Buddhist monks.

At the entrance to the marquee there will be a photo of the bride and groom. Occasionally one or other of them will be non-Cambodian - a situation that has become a little problematic.

"We've been married 10 years, we have children, we're doing very well," said Jim Gollogly, a British doctor who married his wife when he was in his 50s and she was in her 30s.

"I don't think she wants to get rid of me right at the moment. I think she's done well out of it and I've done well out of it. And I don't see why that should be banned."

Dr Gollogly's wife holds a passport from Thailand - so they would not have been affected by the new rules. But others will not be so fortunate.

"They probably think there are too many older guys coming along and picking up young Khmer girls," said Dr Gollogly.

"And they feel that it's a bit immoral or something. But the girls should be of legal, consenting age - and if they are of consenting age, 18 or above, they should be able to make their own decisions."


The authorities seem to have been motivated by aesthetic considerations as much as anything else.

A government spokesman said it did not look "fitting" to see a young Cambodian woman with a much older foreign man.

They have also ruled that younger foreign men must have an income of at least $2,500 (£1,539) a month to marry a local bride.

That is many times more than what the average Cambodian earns.

"It seems to me that if there's any law about anything it should be applied to everyone - not just foreigners," said Dr Gollogly.

"It seems there's a good Asian tradition that older guys marry younger girls - and I don't see why that should be a problem just for foreign men," he said.

But perhaps true love need not be thwarted.

There is no law against couples of any age or nationality getting married outside Cambodia.

They may just have to do without the traditional Khmer wedding they had been planning.

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