The minimum age of marriage, especially for women, has been a controversial issue.

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Question – The minimum age of marriage, especially for women, has been a controversial issue. In such a situation, how rational is the initiative to change the marriageable age, and what are the challenges before it? – 11 June 2021

Answer – 

The minimum age of marriage in India, especially for women, has always been a controversial topic, and whenever such rules have been discussed, there has been strong resistance from social and religious conservatives. It is noteworthy that raising the age of marriage of women can be an important step in the direction of women empowerment and women’s education, although it is also necessary that along with making rules, attention should also be paid to their implementation, because already in India The minimum limit for marriage of women is fixed at 18 years, but statistics show that these rules are not being followed in most of the areas.

Why is there a need to change the minimum age for marriage?

  • According to official UNICEF statistics, out of all children under the age of five worldwide, every fifth child dies in India. These figures reflect that the infant mortality rate in India has reached alarming levels.
  • According to data related to UN estimates of infant mortality, a total of 721,000 infant deaths were reported across India in the year 2018, which means an average of 1,975 infant deaths per day during this period.
  • According to the National Family Health Survey 2015-16, 48% of women in the age group 20-24 are married by the age of 20, due to complications in pregnancy and child care after getting married at such a young age. Due to lack of awareness, maternal and infant mortality rates are increasing.
  • In India, when women should focus on their future and education, at that time they are suppressed by the burden of marriage. There is a need to change this orthodox practice in the 21st century, which can prove to be an important step towards women empowerment.
  • Experts believe that by raising the minimum age of marriage for women, women will have more time to get educated, enter colleges and pursue higher education. With this decision, the entire Indian society, especially the lower economic class, will see a great impact of this decision.

Complications related to age of marriageable-

  • The provision of different age of marriage for men and women is becoming a matter of legal debate. This type of law is a codification of the customs and religious practices that are rooted in the patriarchy.
  • The different age of marriage violates Article 14 (right to equality) and Article 21 (right to life with dignity) of the Constitution.
  • The Law Commission, in a 2018 consultation paper on family law reforms, argued that the different legal age of husband and wife encourages conservatism. According to the Law Commission, the difference in the age of husband and wife has no basis in law, as the meaning of the husband or wife entering into marriage is the same in all respects, and their participation in marital life is also equal.
  • Activists working for women’s rights have also argued that it is only a convention for society that women mature more than men at the same age and therefore they can be allowed to marry at a younger age. International organizations on the elimination of discrimination against women also call for the abolition of laws that surround women with considerations of different physical and intellectual maturity than men.

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