Minimum Age for Marriage in India

Section 5(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 prescribes the ages of the bridegroom and bride as 21 years and 18 years respectively. Originally the Hindu Marriage Act prescribed the age of 15 years for the bride and of 18 years for the bridegroom. The Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act, 1978 raised it to the present condition. There can be an objection to the constitutionality of this condition on the basis of Articles 14 and 15(1) by providing different ages for the bride and the bridegroom this Act has treated them unequally. But this difference is based on the principle of reasonable classification which is not opposed to the principle of equality.

Child Marriage:

As all of us know that marriageable age is the general age the legal age or the minimum age which is subject to social, religious and paternal approval for any of us to have a legit marry.

Child marriage is defined by UNICEF as marriage before the age of 18 and is considered a violation of human rights. Child marriage has been a problem in India for a long time, and it has been a difficult battle to eradicate due of its roots in traditional, cultural, and religious protection.

According to the 2001 census, 1.5 million females under the age of 15 are already married in India. Child marriage has a number of negative consequences, including the loss of educational opportunities and separation from family and friends, sexual exploitation, early pregnancy and health risks, increased vulnerability to domestic violence, higher infant mortality rate, low weight babies, pre-mature birth, and so on. Child marriage, according to UN, is a forced marriage because children of such a young age are incapable of giving legally legitimate consent.

Acts Illegalizing Child Marriage In India And Increasing The Legal Age Of Marriage:

India have had a very prevalent culture of child marriage. It was made illegal in india in 1929 by the child marriage restraint 1929 (also known as Sharda Act), which came inti force on 1st April, 1930. This act fixed the marriageable age at 14 and 18 for girls and boys respectively. Soon The nation went under protests in 1937 by its Muslim nationals who were always in the favour of child marriage this made the amendment in the previous provisions and child marriage for allowed as no minimum limit was fixed. These marriages could be taken place by the consent of the child’s guardian.

Lately after the independence of India in 1947, the previous act for non muslim nationalists underwent two provisions which were:

  1. Minimum age for marriage of girls to be increased from 24 to 15 in 1949,
  2. Minimum age for marriage of girls and boys to be increased from 15 and 18 to 18 and 21 respectively in 1978.

With a series of supreme court judgements and cases, the acceptability and permissibility of a child marriage legislation of Muslims 1937 has always been a contentious issue.
In India, the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2005 went into effect on March 1, 2005. Child marriage is defined as a marriage in which either partner is a child, and child for the purpose of marriage is defined based on the gender of the person, i.e. 18 for females and 21 for men, as specified by the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act of 2006.

Punishments for the Offence of Child Marriage:

Male adult punishment: If an adult male over the age of 18 enters into a child marriage, he will be sentenced to two years of harsh imprisonment or a fine of up to one lakh rupees, or both.

Punishment for solemnising marriage: Anyone who executes, conducts, directs, or abets any child marriage is subject to a two-year sentence of hard imprisonment or a fine of up to one lakh rupees, or both.

Punishment for promoting or permitting the solemnization of marriage: Any person in charge of the child, whether parent or guardian, or any other person, including a member of an organisation or association of persons, who does anything to promote or permit child marriage, or negligently fails to prevent it from being solemnised, including attending or participating in such marriage, shall be punished with two years of rigorous imprisonment or a fine that may extend to two years or a fine which may extend.

Offence under this Act is cognizable and non bailable.

People are less likely to inform the authorities that they have broken the law because they are aware that underage marriage is banned in India. “Everyone knows there is underreporting in India � even UNICEF is aware of it,” says Dhuwarakha Sriram, a child protection specialist at UNICEF India. People are less likely to tell the truth because they are aware of India’s illegal marriage age, according to Sriram, which leads to underreporting.

People in Rajasthan have devised ways to circumvent the rule, according to Kriti Bharti, who leads the non-profit Saarthi. Rajasthani people hold marriage ceremonies at night with only a small group of people present, lowering the risk of a neighbour or relative calling the authorities. The teenage bride is not sent to live with her husband until she reaches puberty after the wedding. Even if the authorities are informed, the families can simply deny any wrongdoing. According to Bharti, “authorities are not always interested in some parts of India, and child marriage may be recognised as a part of the culture.”

The Prohibition Of Child Marriage Amendment Bill, 2021:

Courts with inside the beyond had stated the PCMA Act, 2006, turned into secular in nature and could be triumphant upon the non-public regulation. The minimal marriageable age of women has been proposed to be made religion-impartial at 21 years of age, in line with a Cabinet choice to herald a brand new regulation quickly a good way to amend the ‘The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006’ (PCMA).

The minimal marriageable age of women has been proposed to be made religion-impartial at 21 years of age, in line with a Cabinet choice to herald a brand-new regulation quickly a good way to amend the ‘The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006’ (PCMA). Top research stated that the authorities are possibly introducing The Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, in Parliament on December 20 at some stage in the Winter Session.

The Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, proposes to amend the PCMA so that it will make the age of marriage identical for each man and women at 21 years. At present, the criminal marriage age for men and women is 21 and 18 years, respectively.

There might be consequential amendments in legal guidelines regarding the age of marriage i.e:

  • The Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872;
  • The Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936;
  • The Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937;
  • The Special Marriage Act, 1954;
  • The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; and
  • The Foreign Marriage Act, 1969.

Also, the legal guidelines namely:

  • The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956; and
  • Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956

Pertain to this context, a central authority supply stated at the development.

Government researches stated the change invoice could be introduced to Parliament quickly and termed it a ancient and momentous selection that has the capability of remodelling the lives of ladies and girls, and is a breakthrough withinside the course of gender equality.

Sources additionally stated the Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy, and specially the Right to Equality and Right Against Exploitation below the Constitution of India ensures gender equality. The proposed law is a sturdy degree toward the dedication of the authorities for similar to it’ll deliver ladies on identical footing with males, defined the supply.

The researches additionally introduced that as India progresses, in addition possibilities will open up for ladies to pursue better schooling and careers. There are imperatives for reducing Maternal Mortality Rate, Infant Mortality Rate and development in vitamins degrees in addition to an boom in Sex Ratio at Birth. These are the primary motives for effecting the proposed law. It will even bring about ladies reaching mental adulthood earlier than marriage, exercise higher reproductive rights and higher location in existence skills, consisting of own circle of relatives planning, use of contraceptives, etc, the supply stated.

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