Marriage is an old form of association, it was never perfect; it will never
be perfect, yet it is the Happiest wrong we are doing on earth.
Last year a task force was constituted by the prime minister Narendra Modi
government to examine the proposal of increasing the age of marriage for women.
The task force was led by former samanta party chief Jaya Jaitley and chairman
of NITI(National institution for transforming India) V.K Paul.
- IPC enacted in 1860 which criminalized any sexual intercourse with a girl below the age of 10 years.
- Later age of consent Bill 1927 was passed which made marriages with a girl above 12 years valid.
- The Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 passed on 28 September 1929 in the Imperial Legislative Council of India, which fixed the age of marriage for girls at 14 years and for boys at 18 years. It is popularly known as Sarda Act after its sponsor Harbilas Sarda, it came into effect six months later on 1st April 1930 and applied to all British India. Later, it was amended in 1978 to raise the age for women to 18 years and men to 21 years.
- The Special Marriage Act 1954 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to provide a special form of marriage. The law sought to legitimize inter-caste and inter-religion marriages.
- Further, legislation governing marriage under personal laws of several religions, namely, The Indian Christian Marriage Act 1872, The Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act 1936, Special Marriage Act 1952, and the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, mandate women to be at least 18 years of age and men at least 21 years of age to be eligible for marriage. Under Muslim personal law, a girl is permitted to marry when she attains puberty or completes the age of 15 years.
In my opinion there is no requirement to increase the age of marriage because
every marriage is not just an expression of patriarchy but of social problems as
Poverty, unemployment, pandemic, sex ratio push a large number of families into
either marrying off their daughter or sister at a young age. Like in Uttar
Pradesh, where one in five girls is reportedly a child bride, the employment
rate is as low as 30%.
There is a discussion about whether raising the marriage age would give women
automatic access to higher education?
The uniform marriage age is not a magic word that will magically solve women's
problem in India.
Data shows that a majority of cases of child marriage occur in rural area,
agrarian families with increasing privatisation in education making higher
education costly affairs, it is impractical to expect that the family will
invest in the girl's education on simply because they have more time before they
could marry her off, they simply don't have the money.
While the government having bona fide intentions to increase the age of
marriage, the government took step for women empowerment, education, job, health
but the time is not rip yet, if we look into the history India continues to lack
effective mechanism to implement the law. The government and judiciary need to
concentrate on delivering reforms individually across the issue, like education,
domestic abuse, empowerment, skilling, job security, reproductive health, and
family planning, rather than beating one's own chest about marriage age.
Gender equality and women's rights issues cannot be handled separately. In
addition to having sufficient child protection officers, a police force that is
sensitive to gender issues, and government employees, a mechanism to monitor
child marriage should also make sure that everyone in society is aware of its
"Not all marriages are forced. Some women chooses to get married so to get out
of abusive paternal homes or financial stress. Making marriage a punitive matter
can became a very complex affairs".
The National coalition Advocating for adolescent concern on behalf of 21 NGO
(Non- governmental office) in its submission to the task force assets that
increasing the legal age of marriage for girls will only "artificially expanded
the number of married person deemed underage and criminalised then and render
underage married girls without legal protection ".
Instead transformative well resources measures that increase girls access to
education and health, create enabling opportunities and place girl's empowerment
at the center will not just delay marriage but lead to a long term positive
health and education outcome.
Why is the marriage age in India 18 for females and 21 for males?
Women achieve menopause and full maturity two to three years before men. In all
likelihood, the boy will be older than the female. This is supported by both
conventional wisdom and science. According to studies, the most stable
relationships have a gap of 4-5 years.
Compared to boys, girls mature two to three years earlier. From the age of 10 to
14, they reach maturity. Boys mature between the ages of 12 and 16.
When early marriages were more common, it was usual for the boy to be older than
the girl. Around the age of 48 to 50, women reach menopause. Her optimal
reproductive potential is between the ages of 20 and 30. Subsequently, the
capacity declines and the number of eggs in the ovary starts to decline. Even at
70 to 75 years old, the guy can still produce sperm and father a child.
Women's marriage age matters for public health
There is a significant decline in maternal mortality in India. In 1990, India
had an abnormally high maternal mortality ration(MMR) with 556 women dying
during giving birth for every 100,000 live births. Every year, over 1.38 lakh
women pass away from pregnancy and child birth-related problem. The national
health policy (NHP) 2017 established the 2020 MMR objective for India as being
below 100/100,000 live births. India has successfully reached the significant
milestone of lowering its MMR to 97/100,000 live births in 2021-22 considerably
ahead of schedule, thanks to the government tireless effort.
Marriage is an old form of association, it was never perfect; it will never be
perfect, yet it is the happiest wrong we are doing on earth. The age of marriage
is not a new topic for discussion, it exist since the Indian penal code
prescribed the legal age of marriage, later on the demand of society 'The child
marriage Restraint act 1929' was passed which was also known as 'Sharda
Act' which fixed the age of marriage for girls at 14 years and for boys 18
years, later it was amended in 1978 to raise the age for women to 18 years and
for boys 21 years.
At present, 'The prohibition of child marriage Act' 2006 fixed the age of
marriage for women to be 18 years and for boys 21 years. Raising the marriage
age seems nice on paper but doesn't do much to address the issue of domestic
abuse, education, health and employment. A law does not cost the government
money; building the infrastructure to make education and health care easily
accessible does. So there is no requirement to increase the age of marriage,
early marriage is concern with poverty, unemployment, pandemic etc.
Marriage is about maturity not adulthood, instead transformative well resources
measures that increase girls access to education and health create enabling
opportunities and place girl's empowerment at the center will not just delay
marriage but lead to long term positive health and education outcome. The main
point is that if a girl of 18 years old can sign contracts, start business,
choose prime minister, elect MP & MLA but not marry ?
A hasty legislation may end up creating social confusion and it will harm many
women in our society.
reating social confusion and it will harm many women in our society.