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The High court cites Muslim personal law

  • Published
    21st Jun, 2022
Context

The Punjab and Haryana high court held that a Muslim girl above 15 years of age is competent to enter in a marriage contract with ‘a person of her choice’.

About

Age to marry according to different religion

Personal laws that govern marriage and other personal practices for communities prescribe certain criteria for marriage, including age of the bride and groom.

  • Hindu: Section 5(iii) of The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, sets a minimum age of 18 for the bride and 21 for the groom.
  • Christian: This is the same for Christians under the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 and the Special Marriage Act.
  • Muslim: For Muslims, the criteria are attaining puberty, which is assumed when the bride or groom turns 15.

Laws governing the age of marriage in India

  • Under the law, child marriages, although illegal, are not void but “voidable.” A child marriage can be declared null and void by a court when either party to the marriage files a petition under Article 3(4) of the 2006 Prohibition of Child Marriage Act.
  • In Islam, the marriage of a minor who has attained puberty is considered valid.
  • 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.

Child marriages in India

  • According to the Global Childhood Report released by UK-based NGO Save the Children, in India even today child marriage prevalence is higher in rural areas as compared to urban areas as these figures are 14.1% and 6.9% for rural and urban areas respectively for age group 15-19 years.

Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 (PCMA 2006) defines a ‘child marriage’ as one where either of the two parties is a child. A “child” is defined as a woman below 18 years of age, and a man below 21. This law renders a “child marriage” voidable by a party who petitions court. 

Why should the marriage age be raised?

  • Education:Women have societal pressure to get married early and have children. Due to this they fail to attain education.
  • Domestic responsibilities often take over the lives of women and they are unable to pursue higher education.
  • Economic Independence:Early marriage of women deprives them of proper education and job prospects and thus economic independence.
  • Health issues:Study shows that women who get married before 18 years of age are likely to deal with unwanted pregnancies and are a greater risk of having complications during her pregnancy such as premature babies, retarded growth, prolonged labour and also miscarriage.
  • Domestic violence:Getting married early increases the risk of domestic violence.
  • According to the International Council of Research on Women (ICRW), women who are less educated and married between 15 to 19 years of age are more likely to be victims of domestic violence compared to more educated women.
  • Mental health:Early marriages have a significant impact on the mental health of women. They are likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.
  • Poverty:Girls belonging to poor families are more likely to get married at an early age.
    • It may be because her family cannot afford her expenses such as education and other basic commodities so they prefer to get her married so that she can have a better quality of life.
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