Legal Age for Women to Marry in India

Bill likely to raise the legal age of marriage for women from 18 to 21. Irani said 23 percent of girls under 18 were married, although a law prohibits it. Around 2 million cases of child marriage were arrested in 2015-2020, she said. Figures from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) show that 7% of women aged 15 to 18 were pregnant. In India, child marriage has always been a stumbling block for women. While it was endemic in all parts of the country, government rules and actions managed to remove it to some extent and sweep it under the rug, but it is still widespread. It continues, under the guise of a social marriage, which is not legalized until the girl reaches the age of 18. They point out that although marriages are currently illegal for girls under the age of 18, child marriage remains a major challenge in the country – up to a quarter of women aged 20 to 24 were married before the age of 18, according to the National Family Health Survey, 2019-21. If at least one of the spouses has not yet reached the general age of marriage, the marriage is considered a minor and may require parental consent and/or judicial approval.

Young people can also marry in “exceptional circumstances”. The proposed law would be a big change for women in a country where, according to several estimates, about 50 percent marry before the age of 21. Child marriage is illegal but not zero. It may be contested at the choice of the minor party. This means that the marriage can only be annulled by a court if the minor party applies to the court. This flexibility is maintained to ensure that the rights of the minor, especially the girl, are not subsequently taken away from the marital home. John therefore believes that the government would be better off avoiding the issue of legal age and instead fighting to end the practice of dowry, which encourages early marriage. The younger the bride, the lower the dowry that her parents have to pay to the groom`s side. John says the government should also push for better education standards and connections to help graduates find jobs. Parents usually arrange marriages in India, usually within the same religion or caste. Intercaste and interfaith couples who marry for love are often threatened with violence by their communities and even family members. The Union Cabinet approved a proposal to raise the minimum age of marriage for women from 18 to 21.

A look at the legal implications: Interestingly, in 2018, the Law Commission proposed that 18 be the legal age for both men and women to marry. The panel states: “If a universal age is recognized for a majority and it gives all citizens the right to choose their government, surely they must also be able to choose their spouse.” All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chairman Asaduddin Owasi called the bill “ridiculous” and said women and men would be legally allowed to marry at the age of 18. If they are treated as adults by law for all other purposes, why not for marriage? In a series of tweets, Owaisi criticized the government for its “paternalism.” In addition, this measure will potentially end the threat of teenage marriages, where girls between the ages of 14 and 15 are married off after being portrayed as 18. Even now, 23.3% of women in the country are married before the age of 18. Data show that the drop-out rate for girls in grades 1 to 5 and grades 6 to 8 is only 1.2% and 2.6%, respectively, compared to 15.1% in grades 9 to 10. We hope that this decision will have a positive impact on girls` dropout rates. Several studies show a link between a higher age of marriage (and therefore pregnancy) and better health outcomes for mother and child. Complications of pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Mothers aged 10 to 19 years have a higher risk of eclampsia, puerperal endometritis and systemic infections than women aged 20 to 24 years. Delay in marriage also benefits babies. If the mother is under 20 years of age, the risk of premature birth, low birth weight and severe neonatal disease is higher, adds WHO.

Laws prohibiting marriage before the age of 18 have been in force in India since the 1900s. Nevertheless, child marriage continues to be practiced. In 2005, it was found that almost half of women aged 20 to 24 had married before the legal age. Noting that the bill will result in many women whose families they marry off at an early age, she said: “This betrays neglect and disinterest in women`s empowerment and will leave a large number of women unprotected.” By raising the age of marriage for women to 21, the proposed legislation aligns the legal age of marriage for men and women. It contains amendments to the personal status laws of different communities regarding the age of marriage in order to ensure uniformity in this regard. For example, young couples sometimes run away from home to get married, hoping to avoid harassment and emotional blackmail from family members. And if they are over 18, their decision to marry is legally valid and cannot be appealed by the parents. Importantly, critics question whether the government will be able to respect women`s rights simply by passing legislation without infrastructural and administrative support. Child marriage is widespread in India.

Estimates of the extent and extent of child marriage vary widely from one source to another. Publications by the International Centre for Research on Women and UNICEF estimated the rate of child marriage in India at 47% from 1998 sample surveys,[1] while the United Nations indicates that it was 30% in 2005. [2] The Census of India enumerated and reported married women by age, with the proportion of sexually married married women decreasing every 10 years since 1981.