The constitutional validity of raising the marriage age of girls

Reading time: 6 minutes

INTRODUCTION

Like that in this Article, we will talk about the raising of marriageable age of girls. But before that we have to discuss why there is a need to raise the age of girls? As we know that in India the legal  marriage age of girls is 18 years and for the boy, it is 21 years. And most of the circumstances the girls married before 18 years due to many reasons like poverty, dowry , custom, lack of education, patriarchy system, etc.  .  Reason behind the raising of the age of women is to give an equal opportunity to them like a boy and set up the Constitutional provisions and empowering women.

Different laws related to marriage

  • As we studied in the Hindu Marriage Act 1955  told in Section 5 ( iii) that the age of marriage that bridegroom should be 21 year’s and bride should be 18 years .
  • In Muslim law the marriage of girls who has attained puberty is considered valid.
  • The special marriage Act 1954 and the Prohibition of child marriage Act 2006  also prescribed 18 and 21 year’s as the minimum age of marriage of women and men respectively.

How does marriage age curtail Constitutional provisions?

Under the Indian constitution 1950 provides us six fundamental rights: like the right to equality, the right to freedom, the right against exploitation, right to education, and cultural and right to Constitutional remedies like that .  But if we look laws which related marriage in above which tells that the marriage age for women is 18 years and for men it is 21 year’s . This marriage gap is the violation of fundamental rights of women . It is against the right to equality Article 14 and 15 .  Under Article 15 it is clearly mentioned that there is no discrimination on the basis of caste, sex , religion , place of birth . But in these laws like Hindu Marriage Act 1955 , special marriage Act 1954 , Muslim law and also another it’s violated women right to equality because of in one side they are saying that age for boy is 21 and another side they are saying that the marriage for women is to be 18 years then how can be setup equality on this basis ?

The age of voting can be equal for men and women , the age to consensually , willfully and validly enter into contracts is the same for men and women then why not instill equality in the age requirement for marriage . This is also curtail the right to choose partner of Article 21 because of when women get married early age then she can’t choose her patner on her own choice .

Raising age of marriage of girls

” To save daughters from malnutrition , it is necessary that they get married at right time ,” said by current prime minister in the independence day speech in August 2020 . After more than a year the union cabinet has approved the proposal to raise the age of marriage for women from 18 to 21 year’s. To bring on par that of men. The proposal was recommended by the centre’s task force in niti ayog in December 2020 comprising of secretariat of the development of health and family welfare , women and child development , higher education , school education and Literacy mission and the ministry of justice and law . Subsequent amendment in existing marriage regulations like Hindu Marriage Act 1955 and the prohibition of child marriage act 2006 are also contained in bill.  And also parliament amends the majority Act of 1875 as well and ceases to recognise 18 to 21 year’s old as adults . 

According to National Human rights commission also recommended that there should be a uniform age of marriage for boys and girls .

Abhishek Chaudhary advocate in the SC welcomed the dicisions of government . He thinks that it will promote gender equality . He said , equality among the men and women can be best achieved when they both are given the option to consent for their marriages at the same age “.

Issue on which the age of women at Marriage matters ?

The MoHFW recently released the data of the latest round of the National Health Survey which reveals that at the national level the percentage of women in the 20-24 year’s age group got married before 18 years had decreased from 26.8% in NFHS 4 (2015-16) to 23 % in NFHS 5 (2020-21) . Most states have followed the same pattern but there are a few states with a high percentage of child marriage such as Tripura (40%) Assam ( 31%) Manipur ( 16%) and punjab (8%). Where it found an increase during this period .

According to NHFS 5 data india has achieved the replacement level fertility of 2.1 at the national level but some states still with a comparatively high fertility rate . The move to raise age of marriage for women may become an important driver in reducing the high fertility rate in those states which are lagging behind that they too achieve replacement level fertility rate.

There is a strong correlation between the marital age of women and their SOCIO economic and health status post marriage . The NHFS 5 data reveals an alarming situation of anaemia among the adolescent girls aged 15 -19 years. At the national level the percentage of adolescent girls suffering from anaemia is 59.1% up from in NHFS 4 . The situation is worst in rural areas of the country. The current proposal is based on the idea that a woman must be at least 21years at her first pregnancy , giving women opportunity to attain motherhood at suitable age and improved health conditions . That over time leads to SOCIO economic development of individuals , families, communities and the country as whole.

Furthermore , raising the age of marriage could also help reduce the drop out rate of girls student at school and College level and thereby enhance enrollment of girls student in higher education. Although there are many reasons for dropping out of girls children at the school level early marriage is most prevelent reason . Thus raising the legal age of marriage will provide them with the opportunity to prepare themselves for better life and self reliant economically. All of these boost the notion of gender equity and empowerment of women for holistic development .

” When marriage age increased from 18 to 21 as a boy then it brings right to equality in actual sense and women get their right of equality in reality.”

There is a lot of government schemes for the women empowerment but women empowerment will get a further fillip with equality in marriage age .

Shifting the age of 21 will at least allow women to graduate . For any person , the authority to make his or her own dicisions is a gift . Often , decision are imposed when it comes to choosing of career or choosing of life partner . This happens even in well educated and privileged families but the legal compulsion of increasing the marriage age will certainly raise the chance of an authoritative say when it comes to say when it comes to choosing of career or life partner. This is major because of women will be backed by societal interaction and exposure coming from the education they take. Early marriage may hamper educational prospects , making women financially dependent . Even if they are allowed to work they will have to satisfied with suboptimal work. Considering this increasing of legal age of marriage will increase the age of motherhood .

CONCLUSION

  • At last I want to say that raising the marriage age of girls is a good step taken by the government but only just improvement in laws is not sufficient but there should be good implementation of it because of there is already many laws for the prevention of child marriages but in practical form if we see then we found that in a large quantity child marriage practiced by the people . Whta needs to be understand is that marely raising the age is not the solution : educational opportunities for women needs to be promoted as well as protected from being denied . As education is not only a human rights but also a powerful tool for the women empowerment. The reason being educated women are likely to be health conscious and education will also increase their Share in the labour market , fertility rate would be lower and these women will provide better healthcare and education to their children compared to women with little or no education.

And this step measure to bring women on equal footing with men in keeping with the vision of the constitution on gender equality . And according to the source , the bill once approved by parliament will be followed by consequential amendments in laws relating to age of marriage . These include personal laws governing marriage of Hindus , Muslims , Christian , Parsis and the special marriage Act  1954 and the foreign marriage Act 1969 .

  •  Second thing there is also some problems with this because of in india there are personal laws related marriage of each religion so for this many of them against this amendment , so government must be concerned on the Uniform civil Code equal laws for each religion related marriage. Because of some conservative religious groups and sects in defence of their religious customs.  Article 44 of Constitution of India expects the Indian state to apply directive principles and common law for all indian citizens . There are various programs like ‘ Beti Bachao Beti Padhao started by the government that have significantly helped to improve women education in the country . Only law or changing women age for marriage will not empower the women but educating her , increasing availability of better health care infrastructure , equal opportunity , respect , and change in the mindset towards them will definitely empower women and thereby reduce child marriage.

REFERENCE

Author: SHWETA TIWARI, DR. SHAKUNTALA MISHRA NATIONAL REHABILITATION UNIVERSITY LUCKNOW.

Editor: Kanishka VaishSenior Editor, LexLife India

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s