In 1929, an act came as “The Child Marriage Restraint Act” (3) prescribed the ages as 16 and 18 years as the minimum age of marriage for girls and boys respectively. A law came which was sarda act under which a judge and a member of Arya Samaj, was eventually amended in 1978 to prescribe where the ages 18 and 21 years the age of marriage for a girl and boy respectively.
For Hindus, Section 5(3) (4) of The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (5) sets 18 years as the minimum age for the bride and 21 years as the minimum age for the groom. It was said that child marriages are not illegal – even though they can be declared void at the request of the minor in the marriage.
In the Islam religion it is mentioned that marriage of a minor who has attained puberty is considered valid.
Accordingly, The Special Marriage Act, 1954 (6) and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 (7) also prescribe 18 and 21 years as the minimum age of a man and woman if the marriage takes place with the consent.
How does the Law deals with? How did the law evolve?
According to the legal framework for the age of marriage was started as a consent in the 1880s.
Distinguished Legal Age of girl and boy: There is no reasoning in the law for having different legal standards of age for men and women to marry. These laws are as a codification of custom and religious practices. As the law is being challenged on the grounds of discrimination.
What is the Committee all about?
What the study says?
· Babies who are born to adolescent mothers also had 10 percentage points higher prevalence of low weight as adult mothers.
· Other factors were highlighted such as lower education among teenage mothers and their poor economic status, which had the strongest links with a child’s height and weight measurements.
· The girl’s education is a promising approach to improve maternal and child nutrition.
· UNICEF estimates suggest that each year, at least 1.5 million(13)girls under the age of 18 are married in India, which makes the country home to the largest number of the girls who are minor brides — accounting for a third of the global total.
Why is the law being relooked at?
There are risks with gender neutrality, early pregnancy among women, there are many arguments in favour of increasing the minimum age of marriage of women. If pregnancy takes place in too much small age it is associated with increased child mortality rates and affects the health of the mother.
It was sought by the Delhi High Court by the last year that the central government’s response in a plea that sought a uniform age for marriage for men and women. Advocate and Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Ashwini Kumar Upadhyaya filed a PIL in the court.
Arguments against increasing the marriage age for women :
Factors by which the law was challenged:
In this particular case Upadhyaya, the petitioner, had challenged the law on the grounds of discrimination. He made an argument that the articles like 14 and 21 of the constitution, which guarantee the right to equality and the right to live with dignity, were violated by having different legal ages for men and women to marry.
There is the significant ruling of Supreme Court that may be acted as precedents to support the petitioner’s claim. These are:
· In 2014, in the ‘National Legal Services Authority of India v Union of India(15) case, the Supreme Court, while recognising transgenders as the third gender, said that justice is delivered with the “ concept that the human should be treated equally, so, be treated as equal, as well as by equal laws made for all the humans.
How much child marriages are prevalent in India?
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)(17) published a report on July 2 said that while child marriages were almost universally banned.
According to an estimation by 2030, another 150 million girls under the age of 18 will be married. In India have the advances contributed to a 50 per cent decline in child marriage in South Asia—to 30 per cent in 2018, the region still accounts for the marriages which takes place in largest number, estimated at 4.1 million in 2017, the report said.
According to an analysis in India the child marriage data show that among girls married by age 18, 46 per cent were also in the lowest income bracket.
The estimation was, made by UNICEF(18) , at least 1.5 million girls under the age of 18 are married in India, which makes the country home a very big number of child brides — accounting for a third of the global total. About 16 per cent adolescent girls aged 15-19 are married. Further India is a state party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979(19).
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)(20), which monitors the implementation of the Convention, calls for the abolition of laws that assume women have a different physical or intellectual rate of growth than men. It was noted that despite laws mandating minimum age and criminalising sexual intercourse with a minor, child marriages are very prevalent in the country.
Last but not the least it can be concluded that early pregnancy is mainly associated with increased mortality rates and also early pregnancy affects the health of the mother too.
Therefore, there is a need to focus more on mother’s health in order to feed her children.
The government of India needs to lay emphasize more upon economic and social empowerment of women and girls and organise campaigns to spread awareness. Increasing the minimum age of marriage of women will also lead to gender neutrality and will not violate right to equality.
the article 14 of the constitution says that “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.”
9) The article 21 of the constitution says that Protection of life and personal liberty if No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.