Bill raising marriage age: Minority reps flag dichotomy

Minority communities' representatives flag dichotomy between age of marriage bill and personal laws: Report

Representatives said the government should hold extensive consultations with community leaders before passing the law

Representative image. Credit: iStock photo

Representatives of minority communities have raised concerns over the union government's Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which increases the legal age of marriage for women to 21, questioning how it will affect personal laws in the country.

While most minority communities are not opposed to raising the legal age of marriage, they said that that personal laws are protected under the Constitution. The draft Bill states that the law will supersede the existing marriage and personal laws.

“Women in the Parsi community do not get married under the age of 28-30 years, and men don’t usually marry under 35 years. This is much more than the national mean age of 22-24 years. But personal laws are protected under the Constitution. This must be studied by the standing committee, which must predominantly have women members,” Dr Shernaz Cama, director of Jiyo Parsi, that represents the Parsi community told The Indian Express.

Read | From 18 to 21: Not a silver bullet, but it’s a start

“We believe that the rule of law of the land must supersede Canon law. Within the Catholic as well as other communities, girls are getting married later. But this is primarily in urban areas. The concern is the rural areas, especially marginalised communities such as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes,” Father Savari Muthu, spokesperson of Delhi Archdiocese, said.

“The fear is that they will continue to get married younger and hide it. It is also possible that the new law may be misused to harass these communities, and young people. These are concerns that the government must look into before the Bill becomes law," he told the publication.

Meanwhile, the AIMPLB has called the law "completely irrational".

“This is not just about personal laws, but also looking at what actually benefits women. The biggest requirement in India is the safety and security of women, and when a girl has to be kept at home, her safety becomes the responsibility of the parents, which is why she is often married off," Niaz Ahmad Farooqui, a member of the AIMPLB said.

Read | The minimum age of marriage and challenge of unclear laws

Farooqui also said that the issue is "not about age of marriage, but poverty," adding that they are not advocating that girls get married younger, and questioned the reasoning behind the law.

Mohsin Taqvi, Imam Jama Masjid (Kashmiri Gate), told the publication that the government should carry out extensive consultations with community leaders before passing the law, adding that very rarely do girls get married before they turn 21-22 years and in that sense there is no problem with the increasing the legal marriage age for women.

Watch latest videos by DH here:

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox