Girls' legal age for marriage should be raised to 21, says HC

Girls' legal age for marriage should be raised to 21, says HC

Girls' legal age for marriage should be raised to 21, says HC

Increasing the legal age of marriage for girls from minimum 18 years was mooted by the Madras High Court on Wednesday as a way out to check instances of hundreds of women getting married at an young age only to be separated a few years later.

“For a male, the marriage age is fixed as 21 years. For a girl it is 18 years. But both boys and girls grow in school atmosphere till the age of 17,” a division bench of justices S Manikumar and V S Ravi said, and said, “How can girls be considered more matured at 18 than boys?”

The court made this observation while suggesting some amendments to the Indian Majority Act 1875 and the Child Marriage Restraint Act so that it addresses the issue of the minimum age of marriage of girls.

Noting that the Hindu law prescribes 21 years as marriageable age for men, the court wondered whether it could be said the girl could acquire social, psychological maturity and be ready for marriage on attaining 18 years.

The judges said the high court was registering a large number of habeas corpus petitions with regard to girls who run away with boys at the age of 18. No parent would like his child to walk away from family and getting married on her own in their absence, it said.

The bench, which was closing a habeas corpus plea filed by one R Thiagarajan, said parents bring up their child with love and affection, educate them with a fond hope, and after verifying many particulars as to who would be his or her partner, settle them in marriage.

It was the grievance of the parents that at adolescent age, when the children were not mentally and psychologically mature they decide their course of action, and get married because of infatuation.

Due to lack of proper understanding with parents, they think there was somebody to take care of them and get themselves entangled, the court said.

It was to avoid these factors there was need to consider increasing the marriageable age of girls to 21 or more than 18, the bench said.

The girl may be fit to drive scooter, get employment at 18, but all that could not be equated with mental maturity for marriage, the bench said while suggesting revision of marriageable age.