Marriage is a sacred institution that plays a pivotal role in shaping societies
across the world. One of the key factors that impact the dynamics of a marriage
are determined by the age at which individuals are legally allowed to marry. In
this blog, we embark on a comparative analysis of the age of marriage in India
and other countries, exploring significant cases and relevant legislations that
have shaped this pivotal aspect of social life.
The age of marriage is a significant social issue in India. Child marriage,
which is the marriage of a girl under the age of 18, is a major problem in the
country. According to UNICEF, India has the highest number of child brides in
the world, with over 27 million girls married before the age of 18.
There are a number of factors that contribute to child marriage in India,
including poverty, social norms, and lack of education. Child marriage has a
number of negative consequences for girls, including early
pregnancy, increased risk of maternal mortality, and limited educational and
The Indian government has taken a number of steps to address the problem of
child marriage, including passing the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA)
in 2006. The PCMA sets the minimum age of marriage for girls at 18 and for boys
at 21. The law also provides for penalties for parents and other adults who
arrange or participate in child marriages. Despite these efforts, child marriage
remains a major problem in India. There are a number of challenges to
implementing the PCMA, including lack of awareness of the law, social pressure,
and the lack of effective enforcement mechanisms.
The Indian Scenario: A Tapestry of Traditions
India, known for its diverse culture, boasts a rich tapestry of marriage
traditions that vary significantly from region to region. Historically, early
marriage was common due to social norms, economic reasons, and cultural
practices. However, in recent decades, there has been a growing emphasis on
education, empowerment, and gender equality, leading to a shift in attitudes
towards the age of marriage.
Legal Landscape: Navigating the Indian Marriage Act
The legal framework in India surrounding marriage has evolved over time to
protect the rights of individuals, especially women. With the enactment of the
Prohibition of Child Marriage Act in 2006, the minimum age for marriage has been
set at 18 for females and 21 for males. Despite these laws, child marriage
persists in certain parts of the country, posing challenges to societal
Relevant Acts and Sections in India
The following acts and sections are relevant to the age of marriage in India:
The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA):
The PCMA was passed in 2006 and
sets the minimum age of marriage for girls at 18 and for boys at 21. The law
also provides for penalties for parents and other adults who arrange or
participate in child marriages.
The Hindu Marriage Act (HMA):
The HMA was passed in 1955 and sets the minimum
age of marriage for Hindu girls at 18 and for Hindu boys at 21. The law also
provides for annulment of child marriages.
The Special Marriage Act (SMA):
The SMA was passed in 1954 and sets the minimum
age of marriage for all people at 18 years old. The law also provides for
annulment of child marriages.
There have been a number of important cases related to the age of marriage in
Some of the most notable cases include:
Laxmi Kant Mane vs State of Maharashtra (2006):
This case, which was decided in
2006, held that the PCMA is not gender-neutral and that the minimum age of
marriage for boys should be 21 years old.
Subhashini Sahoo vs Union of India (2013):
This case, which was decided in 2013,
held that the government has a duty to provide education and awareness about the PCMA to prevent child marriage.
Independent Thought vs. Union of India (2017):
In a landmark judgment, the
Supreme Court of India, in the case of Independent Thought vs. Union of India,
declared that sexual intercourse with a wife below 18 years of age would be
considered rape, even if the husband is above the legal age of consent. This
ground-breaking ruling aimed to protect the rights of young girls forced into
early marriages, ensuring they are not subject to sexual exploitation.
A Global Expedition: Age of Marriage Worldwide
Let's embark on a global expedition to compare the age of marriage across
diverse cultures and continents. From the progressive countries in the West to
the traditional societies in the East, we unveil how different nations address
the delicate balance between tradition and modernity.
- Europe: A Melting Pot of Norms
European countries exhibit a wide spectrum of age of marriage laws, reflecting
their unique cultural values and historical practices. Nordic countries like
Sweden and Norway emphasize personal freedom and have set the legal age for
marriage at 18. On the other hand, Mediterranean nations like Greece and Spain,
influenced by cultural traditions, allow marriage as young as 16 with parental
The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 will come into force
in February 2023. This change in the law will make it illegal for 16 and 17 year
olds to get married or become civil partners in England and Wales. The new legal
age to marry will be 18.
- The Americas: United in Diversity
In the Americas, the United States upholds a varied approach, with each state
setting its minimum age of marriage. Many states require individuals to be 18,
while others permit marriage at 16 or 17 with parental consent. In contrast,
Canada uniformly sets the age at 18, reflecting its commitment to safeguarding
the rights of its citizens.
- Asia: A Tapestry of Contrasts
Asia, being the largest and most diverse continent, showcases a wide array of
marital practices. While Japan emphasizes late marriages and career-driven life,
other countries like Bangladesh and Afghanistan still grapple with child
marriages due to socio-economic factors and cultural norms.
Societal Impact: Balancing Tradition and Progress
The age of marriage significantly impacts various aspects of society, including
health, education, and gender equality. Early marriage can hinder educational
opportunities, perpetuate gender inequalities, and lead to health complications
for young brides. Conversely, late marriage can result in reduced fertility
rates and changing family structures. Striking a balance between tradition and
progress remains a complex challenge for societies worldwide.
The Age of Marriage in India and around the world is a fascinating tapestry of
customs, legalities, and social norms. As countries strive to create a
harmonious balance between tradition and modernity, it is crucial to recognize
the need to protect the rights and well-being of individuals, especially women.
While progress has been made in several regions, there is still much work to be
done to ensure a fair and equitable approach to marriage across the globe.
There are a number of factors also that have contributed to the decline in the
age of marriage in recent years, including increasing education levels, rising
economic opportunities, and changing social norms. However, child marriage is
still a widespread problem in India, and there is still much work to be done to
address this issue.
The laws and cases that have shaped the age of marriage in India have played an
important role in protecting the rights of children. However, there is still
more that needs to be done to ensure that all children in India have the
opportunity to reach adulthood without being married. As we continue to evolve,
let us embrace the beauty of diversity while fostering a world where every
individual can make their marital choices freely and responsibly.