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Window Seat: Marriage Age

22/11/2020 at 7:00 AM

Dr Mrinal Chatterjee

What should be the minimum age for marriage, especially for girls? This has been a contentious issue for centuries.  Currently, the law prescribes that the minimum age of marriage is 21 years and 18 years for men and women respectively. The minimum age of marriage is distinct from the age of majority which is gender-neutral. An individual attains the age of majority at 18 as per the Indian Majority Act, 1875.

There has been a growing demand to reconsider the minimum age of marriage for girls. A task force has been set up by  the Union Ministry for Women and Child Development to examine a host of matters pertaining to the age of marriage. The issues include the age of motherhood, imperatives of lowering Maternal Mortality Ratio and the improvement of nutritional levels among women.

The task force will examine the correlation of age of marriage and motherhood with health, medical well-being, and nutritional status of the mother and neonate, infant or child, during pregnancy, birth and thereafter. It will also look at key parameters like Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR), Total Fertility Rate (TFR), Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) and Child Sex Ratio (CSR), and will examine the possibility of increasing the age of marriage for women from the present 18 years to 21 years.

Increasing the age of marriage of girls has been one of the important social reforms in the nineteenth century. It took long years of struggle and advocacy led by reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar. SubramanianIyer to do so.

The Indian Penal Code enacted in 1860 criminalised sexual intercourse with a girl below the age of 10. A legal framework for the age of consent for marriage in India only began in the 1880s.

The provision of rape was amended in 1927 through The Age of Consent Bill, 1927, which declared that marriage with a girl under 12 would be invalid. The law faced opposition from conservative leaders of the Indian National Movement, who saw the British intervention as an attack on Hindu customs.

In 1929, The Child Marriage Restraint Act set 16 and 18 years as the minimum age of marriage for girls and boys respectively. The law, popularly known as the Sarda Act after its sponsor HarbilasSarda, a judge and a member of AryaSamaj, was eventually amended in 1978 to prescribe 18 and 21 years as the age of marriage for a woman and a man respectively.

There is no reasoning in the law for having different legal standards of age for men and women to marry.Women’s rights activists have often argued that the law also perpetuates the stereotype that women are more mature than men of the same age and, therefore, can be allowed to marry sooner.

The international treaty Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), also calls for the abolition of laws that assume women have a different physical or intellectual rate of growth than men.

In fact from bringing in gender-neutrality to reduce the risks of early pregnancy among women, there are many arguments in favour of increasing the minimum age of marriage of women. Early pregnancy is associated with increased child mortality rates and affects the health of the mother.

However, despite laws mandating minimum age and criminalising sexual intercourse with a minor, child marriages are very prevalent in the country.UNICEF estimates suggest that each year, at least 1.5 million girls under the age of 18 are married in India, which makes the country home to the largest number of child brides in the world — accounting for a third of the global total. Nearly 16 per cent adolescent girls aged 15-19 are currently married.


Jaipur in Rajasthan, arguably the first planned city of India celebrated its 293rd birthday on 18 November 2020.It was founded by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, the ruler of Amer on November 18, 1727.

Photo: Tabeenah Anjum

The city was named after him. The chief architect and planner of the citywas Vidyadhar Bhattacharya, who hailed from Naihatiof present-day West Bengal. He was working in the Amer state as Junior Auditor when he was approached by the Maharaja to build the city. 

Back in 1700, Amber (Amer), a city set in the midst of arid mountains, was the original capital city of the Kachwaha Rajput kings. However, owing to continuous famines, the then-King, Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, decided to shift his kingdom to greener pastures.

He scouted for other potential cities in the kingdom to set up his new capital and finally zeroed in on a place 12 km away from Amber. With the Mughals in the North and the ever-expanding empire of the Marathas in the south of Rajasthan, Jai Singh needed a capital that would be strategically important and safe from incursions. Set on a plain terrain and surrounded by mountains, the city of his choice was set to become an unconventional capital.

Maharaja Jai Singh II recruited architect Vidyadhar Bhattacharya who was already employed in his court and working as an Auditor.

Bhattacharya was a brilliant architect. He used the holistic principles of ShilpaShastra and VaastuShastra to create a grid-based model of the city. He researched on the ancient Indian literature on astronomy, the journals on Ptolemy and Euclid while planning the city.

Finally, he designed a blueprint for Jaipur around 1727, dividing the city into nine squares, each symbolizing the nine planets of the solar system. Two of these divisions were reserved for state buildings and palaces while the rest was reserved for the general public.

The city was planned so meticulously and scientifically, that each street went east to west and north to south. There were covered porches in the markets that would protect the merchants from the sun in summers and cold winds in winter.

Called pink city for its trademark building colour, the old city area is a UNESCOworld heritage site now. The city is also home to the World Heritage Sites Amber Fort and JantarMantar.

Jaipur has been a major tourist draw. Along with Delhi and Agra- it forms the Golden Triangle which attracts a large number of tourists in India.

Tail piece: Happy Deepavali

ShashiTharoor sent me his Deepavali wishes:

Let this iridescent, opalescent, incandescent festival of fervour sink the tenebrosity into ravishing radiance, filling everyone’s life with cornucopia of joy, peace, health and fine fettle…

Evil elements be incinerated in a sparking show of lights and coruscation…

Merapuri Diwali saam dictionary dekhtedekhte bit gaya.(My Diwali evening was spent in looking at dictionary.)

(Courtesy: Social Media)

The problem is…

The problem, you know, with us here in India is that we are expected to support either an Arnab or an Udhav! One is not allowed to dislike both!


Journalist-turned media academician MrinalChatterjee lives in Dhenkanal, Odisha. He writes fiction and translates poetry from Urdu, Hindi and Bengali to Odia and English.

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