A plea was moved on Wednesday in the Delhi High Court seeking equalising of the legal age of marriage for both men and women. The PIL argued how the limit of 18 years for a woman amounts to “blatant discrimination”.
BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay who moved this public interest litigation (PIL) said that men in India were permitted to get married at the age of 21. The difference in minimum age of marriage for men and women was based on patriarchal stereotypes and had no scientific backing. He argued,
The petition challenges a blatant, ongoing form of discrimination against women. That is the discriminatory minimum age limit for marriage for men and women in India. While men in India are permitted to get married only at the age of 21 years, women are allowed to get married when they are 18.
This distinction is based in patriarchal stereotypes, has no scientific backing, perpetrates de jure and de facto inequality against women, and goes completely against global trends.
Apart from that the petition also claims that the difference in marriage age violates the principles of gender equality, gender justice and dignity of women.
The petition further said “it is a social reality” that married women are expected to perform a subordinate role vis-à-vis the husband and this “power imbalance” is deeply aggravated by the age difference, reported PTI.
Seeking equalisation of the age of marriage for men and women, the petition stated,
A younger spouse is, therefore, expected to respect and be servile to her elder partner, which aggravates the pre-existing gender based hierarchy in the marital relationship.
Last year, pointing out divergences in laws, the panels said the Special Marriage Act, 1954, prescribed 18 years and 21 years as the legal minimum for women and men respectively. It is then that Law Commission had suggested that the legal age for marriage for both men and women across religions should be fixed at 18 years, the universal age for majority.
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