LEGAL MARRIAGE AGE IN INDIA
The minimum age for marriage in India was last amended in 1978 when it was set at 18 for women and 21 for men.
Delhi lawyer and BJP leader, Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, in October had moved a petition demanding that his petition for fixing a uniform minimum marriage age of 21 for both men and women, pending with the Delhi high court is transferred to the Supreme Court along with a similar petition filed by one Abdul Mannan, pending with the Rajasthan high court that can be clubbed and heard together by the Apex court. His transfer petition says the transfer of all such petitions to the supreme court will avoid multiplicity of litigations and conflicting views on the interpretation of articles 14, 15, and 21.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday, February second, agreed to examine whether it should adjudicate the issue of declaring a uniform minimum marriage age for men and women, expanding the growing arc of its interest in the politically sensitive issue of personal laws.
The petitioner in his petition stressed that women have a fundamental right to be free to pursue studies or occupations after finishing school at the age of 18.
"It is a social reality that women are expected (and often also pressurized) to beget children immediately after marriage and also forced to take up household chores in accordance with their stereotypical roles in the family. This harms their educational as well as economic pursuits and often impinges on their reproductive autonomy as well," the plea said.
“The distinction is based on patriarchal stereotypes, has no scientific backing, perpetrates de jure and de facto inequality against women, and goes completely against the global trends,” it said.
The differential bar discriminated against women, thus contravened the fundamental principles of gender equality, gender justice, and dignity of women.
Upadhyay argued that women in a married relationship are expected to perform a subordinate role vis-à-vis the husband. “This power imbalance is deeply aggravated by the age differential because age itself constitutes a hierarchy of power. A younger spouse is therefore expected to respect and be servile to her elder partner, which aggravates the pre-existing gender-based hierarchy in the marital relationship,” his petition stated.
It added that a higher minimum age will ensure "more autonomy to women in every sense".
The petitioner said more than 125 countries in the world had a uniform age of marriage for men and women.
The petitioner has further brought to the court’s notice that India signed the ‘Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women’ (CEDAW) on July 30, 1980, and ratified it in 1993 to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations.
The petitioner has also urged the court to direct the Central Government to take appropriate steps in the spirit of the Articles 14, 15, 21, and International Conventions and declare that the minimum age of marriage shall be 21 years for all citizens.
“This differential bar discriminates against women, thus contravening the fundamental principles of gender equality, gender justice and dignity of women and breaches Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution of India,"
Writer - Dyumna Madan
Editor - Priyam Kusundal
Illustrator - Shaina Rahman
Graphics - Angeline Saleh