Constitutional validity of raising the marriage age of girls

INTRODUCTION

As that in this Article we will talked about the raising of marriagble age of girls. But before that we have to discussed on why there is a need to raising the age of girls ? As we know that in india the legal marriage age of girls is 18 years and for boy it is 21 year’s. And most of 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 setup the Constitutional provisions and empowering women .

Different laws related 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 marriage age curtail Constitutional provisions ?

Under Indian constitution 1950 provides us six fundamental rights : like right to equality , right to freedom , 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 .

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 .

Reference :

https://www.thehindubusinessline.com

https://Indianexpress.com

https://www.drishtiias.com

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