The Union Cabinet on Wednesday cleared the proposal to raise the legal age of marriage for women from 18 to 21 years. This move would bring the legal age of marriage for women at par with men which is 21 years.
The move will now require a law to be tabled in Parliament to amend personal laws governing age of marriage such as the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act,2006,Special Marriage Act and personal laws such as the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Currently, for Hindus Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists, the Hindu Marriage Act sets 18 years for minimum age of the bride and 21 years for the groom; in Islam, the personal laws lay down that the marriage of a minor who has attained puberty is considered is to be considered for marriageable age.
The Special Marriage Act, 1954 and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 also prescribe 18 and 21 years as the minimum age of consent for marriage for women and men, respectively.
In 2020, a Task Force headed by Jaya Jaitly to examine the issue of lowering Maternal Mortality Rates and improvement of nutritional levels had recommended the age of marriage for women be brought at part with men.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court had admitted a plea seeking uniform age of marriage for women and men. It had also admitted a plea challenging different ages under Section 5(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Section 4(c) of the Special Marriage act, 1954, Section 2(a) of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 and Section 60(1) of the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872, and Section 3(1)(c) of the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936, which prescribe eighteen years and twenty one years eglible for bride and groom respectively.
The petition had submitted that difference in age of marriage perpetuates gender inequality and stereotypes, and also violates various Constitutional rights embedded under Articles 14,15 and 21.
By line: Divya Thearia