Legal Age of Marriage in India


December 7, 2022, 11:09 am | Updated May 25, 2024, 2:17 pm IST
Legal Age of Marriage in India
What is the legal age of marriage in India for boys? Did the government increase the marriage age for girl in India 2022 to 21 years? Vidhikarya helps understand the concept of age of consent as per marriage law in India through the blog below.
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Weddings in India are a community-based practice. While in some groups, it is common to wait till the late twenties or early thirties, others even hardly wait until the legal age for marriage in India. Marriage law in India respecting various religious beliefs lays the legal age of marriage in India. Laws mainly uphold the age of consent for weddings in India, thereby prohibiting child marriage. Understand what is the legal age of marriage in India for boys and girls in the blog below. Also, explore the buzz around increasing the marriage age for girl in India 2024.


Legal Age of Marriage in India 2024

Marriage in Hinduism lacks any trace of an age limit as per history. The concept of age of consent was introduced through the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. As per Section 5 (iii) of the Act, the boy should have reached the minimum age of 21 years, while the bride should have reached the minimum age of 18 years at the time of marriage. Even the conditions related to the solemnization of special marriages under Section 4 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 lay the same age of consent for marriage in India. The Child Marriage Restraint Act (1929) and even the latest Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 prohibit marriage before the age of maturity. The legal age for marriage in India is being proposed to be amended, increasing the marriage age for girls in India 2024 from 18 to 21 years. However, the amendments are yet to be passed by the parliament and come into effect. If you notice someone organizing child marriage against the applicable laws, contact the authorities through family lawyers in India.

Marriage Age for Girl in India 2024

In most of the personal laws as well as the Special Marriage Act, 1954, women's legal age of marriage in India is barred to 18 and above. However, in the case of Muslims, attaining the age of puberty is the indicator of a marriage contract. Usually, girls above the age of 15 years are said to have attained the legal age of marriage in India. Although recently, the marriage age for girls in India 2024 is being proposed to be increased to 21 years. However, the events of child marriage as per data reveal the societal mindset heading towards the contrary.

Legal Age for Marriage in India 2024 for Boy

The law of the land holds the husband responsible for the maintenance of the wife. That is the reason why the legal age of marriage in India for males is higher than that of females. In the usual scenario, a male should have crossed the age of 21 years in order to get married as per the marriage law. The legal age for marriage among Muslim men is said to be marked with attaining puberty. 

Current Minimum Age:

·       Women: 18 years (as per Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006)

·       Men: 21 years (as per Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006)

Best Age to Get Married According to Science

Marriage has become the most common cultural union in human society for procreation. Although the rituals may vary, ultimately the aim is to form a union of man and woman legally acceptable in the civil society.

If we take reproduction science for understanding the marriage age in India for girl and boy, puberty may be the measure. Puberty is the age at which a person’s body undergoes reproductive development transforming into an adult. For girls, it usually happens between 10-15 years. For boys, the age surrounds 13-16 year olds. However, the maternal mortality rate is higher in girls who get married soon after attaining the age of puberty.

Even if the psychological aspect is focused upon, maturity does not come with age but experience. Marriage requires a lot of maturity for both girls and boys.

Scientific research does not reveal any hard and fast rule for when a person should get married. However, some reports have revealed data based research that proves that people married between the ages of 28 to 32 years are less likely to divorce their spouse. Some research reveals that the best age to get married according to science is 24 to 30 years. But even researchers agree that nobody’s life goes smoothly and similarly to others. Everyone has his/ her own storms to deal with, and married life also experiences hiccups for different individuals. Thus, relying on scientific data won’t help in deciding whether someone should get married early or wait for their late twenties. 

 

Marriage and Fertility in India (in %) Urban Rural Total Comparison with Total in NFHS-4 (2015-16)
Women aged 20-24 years married before the age of 18 years 14.7 27.0 23.3 26.8
Men aged 25-29 years married before age 21 years 11.3 21.1 17.7 20.3
Total fertility rate (children per woman) 1.6 2.1 2.0 2.2
Women aged 15-19 years who were already mothers or pregnant at the time of the survey 3.8 7.9 6.8 7.9
Adolescent fertility rate for women aged 15-19 years 27 49 43 51

For complete pdf file containing the NFHS-5 survey report - Click Here.

Important Points to Remember

Child Marriage: Child marriage is the practice of marrying children (individuals below the age of 18 years) either voluntarily or involuntarily. In India, it is prohibited under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, which defines a child as any person who, if a male, has not completed 21 years of age, and if a female, has not completed 18 years of age.

Legal Options Recourse of Child Marriage: If someone reports a child marriage, authorities can intervene to prevent it or annul it if it has already taken place. Even if the child has consented to the marriage and is already married, the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, allows for the marriage to be voidable at the option of the party who was a child at the time of the marriage. This means that upon attaining the age of majority (i.e. 18 for girls and 21 for boys), if the child does not seek annulment of the marriage, the marriage will continue to be legally valid. However, during the period before the child reaches the age of majority, they may not be able to legally enforce certain marital rights.

Differing Religious Rules: Different personal laws govern marriage in India, with varying minimum ages for girls. However, the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, applies uniformly across religions and the above legal recourse overrides any such conflicting religious practices.

The Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021: This Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha on 21 December, 2021 by the Union Minister of Women and Child Development.   The Bill seeks to increase the marriage age of women from existing 18 years to 21 years, by amending the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Act, 2006. One more amendment in the Bill seeks to increase the time period of II. petition to make the child marriage voidable from the existing ‘two years of attaining majority’ to ‘five years of attaining majority’. The Bill was referred for examination to the Departmentally Related Standing Committee on Education, Women, Children, Youth and Sports under the Chairmanship of Dr. Vinay P. Sahasrabuddhe on 25 December, 2021. The Report of the Standing Committee is awaited.

Arguments for Raising the Minimum Age of Marriage for Women

  • Education Opportunities: Provides girls with more opportunities for education, enabling them to complete higher studies and pursue careers, which contributes to their financial independence and empowerment.
  • Economic Empowerment: Enhances women's participation in the workforce, contributes to economic growth and reduces poverty.
  • Health Benefits: Reduces risks associated with early pregnancies and lowers maternal and infant mortality rates. It will also improve nutrition levels and sex ratio at birth.
  • Psychological Maturity: Provides more time for emotional and mental development. Ensures women are more prepared for marital responsibilities.
  • Gender Equality: Raises awareness about women having equal rights and opportunities as men. It promotes the idea that women are not lesser than men and hence, are not to be seen as an economic burden but as an opportunity for economic growth.

Arguments against Raising the Minimum Age of Marriage for Women

  • Cultural and Religious Resistance: Some communities may resist such change due to cultural and religious beliefs, viewing it as interference with personal and traditional practices.
  • Practical Challenges: Enforcement may be difficult and costly, especially in rural areas.
  • Increased Unregistered Marriages: There is concern that it could lead to an increase in unregistered marriages, making it harder to monitor and regulate the practice. It may also lead to an increase in unmarried couples living together, which is not socially or widely accepted.
  • Economic Pressures on Families: May unintendedly increase economic pressures on families in economically disadvantaged areas, who view marriage as a means of financial support.
  • Conflict with the age of majority: The minimum age of marriage at 21 years will be higher than the minimum age of majority (18 years).  The Supreme Court has ruled that marriage between adults is a fundamental right. The question is whether prohibiting marriage for adults between 18 and 21 years is a reasonable restriction on their right to marry. However, this is already the case for men.­

 

FAQs on Legal Age of Marriage in India

  1. Is 21 the right age to get married?

    No age is the right age to get married until the person is ready to take up the responsibility. Marriage in India is a civil union. It is a package full of responsibilities, be it legal or societal. One should be financially, mentally and physically stable enough to kick-start with married life.

  2. Why should girls get married at age 21?

    The matter is under discussion by the Government of India for raising the minimum legal age of marriage in India from 18 to 21 years for girls. It is already 21 for boys in India. Girls getting married at or after the age of 21 years will have a chance to complete their higher education and start a career. By the age of 18 years, they hardly complete their school and some of them are married off. If increasing the age of marriage brings more girls into higher education followed by employment, it will grant them a chance to become independent and decide for themselves. 

  3. Should the age of marriage be raised to 21?

    The legal age of marriage in India for girls is proposed to be increased from 18 to 21 years. Whether the marriage age for girls in India 2024 should be increased or not depends upon various factors. It will empower the Child Marriage Restraint Act provisions, it will allow women to prioritize their education and career. Increasing the legal age of marriage for girls in India may also have a positive impact on the maternal mortality rate in India. 

  4. Can a girl marry at the age of 18 in India in 2024?

    In the current scenario, the legal marriage age in India for girl and boy 2024 is 18 and 21 years respectively. If the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021 is passed this year with a majority in both the houses of Parliament of India, it will be 21 years for both boys and girls.

  5. What is the legal age of marriage in India 2024 for girls?

    The legal age of marriage in India for a girl is 18 years.

  6. Can a girl marry before 21 in India?

    Yes, a girl in India can marry after turning 18 years old.

  7. What is the lowest legal age for marriage?

    The legal age for marriage is minimum 18 for girls and minimum 21 for boys in India.

  8. What is the Hindu Marriage Act Amendment 2024?

    There is currently a bill with the Parliamentary Standing Committee to make the legal age of marriage for girls at par with boys (21 years).

  9. Is the legal age of marriage in India 18 or 21?

    As per the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006, the legal age for marriage of girl is 18 years and for men is 21 years. Marriages below the legal age are considered child marriages and illegal.   

  10. Can a boy marry at the age of 20 in India?

    No, as per the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006, the legal age for marriage of men in India is 21 years.

  11. What is the legal age to marry a girl in India 2024?

    As per the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006, the legal age of a girl’s marriage is 18 years.

  12. Can I marry at the age of 18?

    If you are a woman, yes, you can legally marry at the age of 18 in India. The legal age for marriage of men in India is 21 years
Written By:
Vidhikarya

Vidhikarya


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