Why 18 Is the Legal Age in India

On December 21, a bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha to formalize the legal changes. However, due to opposition from opposition parties, it was referred to a parliamentary body for further consideration. Much care and consideration is given to weddings in India; Nevertheless, society and its rigid rules have prevented people, especially women, from making their own decisions about their lives and the age at which they want to marry. In Victorian times, the legal age of marriage was 21 to 1823. After 1823, however, it was reduced to 14 for boys and 12 for girls. There were many social ills in colonial India and one of them was child marriage. Meanwhile, girls between the ages of 10 and 12 were married on average. After independence, India underwent a major change in 1978 when the legal age of marriage was raised to 18 for girls and 21 for boys. Recently, a bill was introduced by the Indian government to raise the legal age for women from 18 to 21. Asked about the rationale behind the new law, the Indian government said it would empower women and minimize gender inequalities. The purpose of this article is to analyse the economic and social aspects of this provision in the context of the current debate on the proposed amendment. In June 2020, the Union Ministry for Women and Child Development established a 10-member committee, headed by Jaya Jaitly, to focus on issues related to the age of childbearing, the need to reduce the maternal mortality rate, improving nutritional levels, and other related issues. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke in his Independence Day 2020 speech about his government`s plan to raise the legal age of marriage for girls.

In December 2020, the Jaitly Committee presented its recommendation to raise the legal age of marriage for girls from 18 to 21. In 1978, the government last raised the age of marriage for girls between the ages of 15 and 18. This was achieved by amending the Child Marriage Restriction Act of 1929, also known as the Sharda Act. In line with the recommendations of the Jaitly Commission, the Union Government has now decided to further raise the age of marriage for women. As for the issue of postponing marriages until the age of 21, this seems to happen even without a legal mandate. In recent decades, data show an upward trend in the age at which women marry. The average age of a bride at marriage was 22.3 years in 2018, up from 18.3 years in 2001. Article 11 states that only those who have reached the age of majority are legally capable. Therefore, a law is needed to determine the age of majority.

The Indian government has proposed raising the legal age of marriage for women from 18 to 21. Currently, the legal age for marriage for women is 18, while the corresponding age for men is 21. There are various personal laws in India that specifically govern different religions. The Hindu Marriage Act 1955 sets the legal age of marriage at 21 for the groom and 18 for the bride. Similarly, the Indian Christian Marriage Act of 1872 sets the age of 18 for the bride and 21 for the groom. The Foreign Marriage Act 1969 and the Special Marriage Act 1954 also provide for a similar minimum age for marriage. The 1937 Law on the Application of Muslim Personal Law (Shariah) provides that a boy and a girl who have reached puberty may marry. In 2018, the Law Commission of India proposed lowering the legal age for men from 21 to 18, while maintaining the legal age for both sexes at 18. “We do this so that they have time to study and progress.

The country is making this decision for its daughters,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said after the law banning child marriage was introduced in Parliament on Tuesday. The action comes more than a year after he said in an Independence Day speech that the government was considering raising the legal age of marriage for women. The Odisha State Commission for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (OSCPCR) opposed the centre`s decision to raise the legal age of marriage for girls, saying it would be ineffective in preventing child marriage and aggravating cases of fetal killing and of single mothers. Raising the legal age of marriage would mean that people between the ages of 18 and 21 who wish to marry would become criminals, the report says. On a hot August afternoon, 16-year-old Punam Mitharwal took a routine university test and went to the nearest post office in his northern Indian town of Hisar to send a special letter. It was a short letter in Hindi on a postcard to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. She accompanied half a dozen of her friends, each with a similar letter. They all contained a specific demand, namely the raising of the legal age of marriage for girls to 21. The Indian government has taken a commendable step by raising the minimum age for marriage for women.

In addition to tackling the country`s social problems, this move would also help the economy thrive. However, legislation alone is not enough to bring about change. It should be noted that, according to the 2019 report of the Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation, the average age of marriage for women has increased to 22.1 years, which is much higher than the current and proposed legal minimum age. This average age is higher for urban women than for rural women. It can therefore be assumed that this change is not only voluntary, but is also accelerated by an increase in incomes and education levels. Appropriate initiatives to improve access to education and employment must accompany legislative change to reflect changes in society.