Raising Legal Age of Marriage in India

In order to formulate policies for a better equality in gender, the Union Cabinet of India proposed to raise the age of marriage of both men and women. This proposal seemed to be a progressive step. As a result on December 15, the Union Cabinet made the decision to raise the legal marriage age of women to 21 years from 18 years and for men it is 21 years. Thus, making the marriageable age of both men and women equal.

The government is asked to establish and implement the minimum marriage age for women and child marriage is strictly forbidden under Article 16 of the Indian Constitution. The minimum age for marriage is mainly prescribed by the law so as to avert abuse of children and prohibit child marriage. Marriage is dealt by different religions according to their own standards. In Hinduism, under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the minimum age of women is 18 years and men is 21 years for marriage. In the Muslim religion, a minor’s marriage is considered valid if he/she has attained puberty. The minimum marriage age for men and women is also specified as 21 and 18 years under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 and The Special Marriage Act, 1954.

It was decided by the Narendra Modi government to reappraise the marriage age of women for a great number of reasons with gender parity being one among them. Marriage at an early age often leads to instances of early pregnancies which may further effect the level of nutrition in both children and mothers. Thus, effecting the overall mental and physical health. It was also taken into consideration that if the voting age and consensual age to enter into a contract is same for both men and women, then the marriage age should also be made equal. Such changes in the age is believed to bring perceptional changes in the developing society. Such provision would also facilitate women empowerment specially encouraging them to enroll for higher education.

There might be some negative aspects to the law but these are just possibilities. As mentioned by the activists of women’s rights that the laws can be misused by the parents in order to punish the daughters who would have married either by eloping or against their will or domestic abuse. The authority of the parents would consequently increase over the young adults.

However, the law has a long way ahead. The law would ensure objective equality. There should be increased awareness among the women like the young girls should be counseled on pregnancies at an early age and network to enhance their health should be provided. The main focus should on creating awareness in relation to reproductive health and sexual rights of the women and it should be made sure that the girls are not drop out of colleges or school. The issues of equity should be addressed by the government and the unfortunate or disadvantaged women should be encouraged to complete their higher education, good job placement and opportunities should also be provided along with career counselling. It can be observed that the government is making great efforts to prevent any sort of discrimination towards women and trying to maintain equality between genders in every aspect.