Matrimony -A legally and socially sanctioned union, usually between a man and a woman regulated by-laws, documentations, customs, beliefs, and mindsets that prescribe the partners and accords' rights and duties status to their offspring (if any). Traditionally, marriage is the sacred union of two souls, agreeing to get into the contract of taking a step further in any relationship, considered eternal. Typically, marriage entails an optimistic stance in one's life, although circumstances have shed light on the phrase 'marriage is no easy task.' There have been several instances where marriage's inviolability has been tarnished my man, primarily accounted to underprivileged females sold with matrimony price. In this paper, the author would like to revisit a few reasons why there have been stricter laws enforced on marriage laws, highlighting whether marriage's age limit is justified.
Marriage is considered a fundamental and human right to the majority. Although, hypocritically, society did not allow same-sex marriage until lately. Therefore, the tag “one should be allowed to marry whoever and whenever “has been up for debate for centuries. Only until the 20th century has it been fully comprehended by specific populations.
The topic for deliberation is this- “can age determine who you’re meant to marry.”
The answer can be seen with reason and patience as if one has set their mind on marriage; then, time should not change this motion. In many cases, one chooses to get married to constitute their liaison and move forward with their respective partner, especially religious individuals who decide to abstain from sexual relations pending marriage.
In such cases of haste, Forbearance should be attained first as if the educated society were to have tolerance and empathy when it comes to having an upper limit marriage age; this would set an example to the underprivileged who are mistreated and conned into marrying at a younger age and deprived of implicit freedoms. One must not forget that regularly a ‘happily married life’ is not what individuals willingly sign up for and are often succumbed to abuse and are denied an education.
The topic of debate
The debate arose when India’s government set up a task force to revise the marriage age from 18 to 21. The number ’21’ might not look juvenile, although research says a different perspective. Currently, more than 12 million girls get married before the age of 18. There is neither scientific nor reported data reasoning in the law for having different legal standards of age for men and women to marry. In India, these laws have been codified because of customs and religious practices.
Having different traditional standards contributes to the stereotype that ‘wives must be younger than their’ husbands’. The disparity in marriageable age violates the ‘right to equality’.[ii] Therefore, the Law Commission of India suggested bringing gender neutrality in India, recommending that the minimum age of marriage for both genders must be set at 21.
Medical complications directed to the youth
Complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death in girls aged 15-19 globally. Infants born to young mothers are more likely to suffer complications, and 90% of adolescent pregnancies in the developing world are to girls who are already married.
India has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Child brides are more exposed to health risks associated with early sexual activity and childbearing. Such risks also lead to early termination of a fetus. 1Global Health Action, 2009. Global Health Action Special Volume 2009: Climate change and global health: linking science with policy. 2(0).
Indulging into unprotected sexual activities can culminate in the risk of STD’S. According to UNFPA, a young bride contracts HIV at a faster pace than sexually active single girls. 2Bhattacharya, G., 2004. Sociocultural and Behavioral Contexts of Condom Use in Heterosexual Married Couples in India: Challenges to the HIV Prevention Program. Health Education & Behavior, 31(1), pp.101-117.
Studies show that women are more likely to get married to men who are average ten years older than their wives. This disparity in age leads to younger girls experiencing domestic violence than older women. Further, the significant age difference can lead the wives to become widows at an early age. Hence these widows are left with no financial support for herself as well as the children.
Complications out of pregnancies, domestic violence, or STD’S can occur at any age; yes, although the risk factor concentrated on the youth is much higher. Many brides go into a marriage with the incentive to have children, although this decision is far less risky when dwelled at a mature age. Early marriage practice comes with physical difficulties, but it can also impact overall psychological well-being such as anxiety, depression, vitality, distress, and general health. It is essential to consider these factors even in the normative standard of early marriage.
Consent and soundness of mind
One thing is commonly seen, be it the Hindu marriage act, the Christian marriage act, and the special marriage or the Muslim marriage act -both the parties willingly entering into this agreement should be sane.
Addressing the issue of ‘mentally sane,’ one must consider the social stigma with this tag. Commonly, mental problems aren’t addressed by individual families and are often pushed aside, for both men and women, which results in problems later on in a marriage.
If a person enters into marriage when not fully mentally developed, it’s unjust to one’s mental abilities; They are not fully comprehensive of the situation. That is why generally educated societies protest when a girl or boy get married at a very young age, as opposed to those societies where marriage is pushed as soon as a girl reached puberty.
Section 5[vii] (ii)(a) has two components: (1) Ability to give valid consent, and (2) soundness of mind.
A person who possesses and exercises sufficient mental capacity to make an intelligent decision demonstrates consent by performing an act recommended by another. The expression “unsoundness of mind” concerning marriage has to be understood as the lack of a state of mind or capacity to understand one’s affairs or marital obligations.
Correlating this issue with the age threshold of marriage, the author emphasizes how one’s brain isn’t fully developed before 25; therefore, individuals who aren’t fully mentally designed to deal with society and marriage pressures must be cognizant of this contract’s obligations and entitlements before entering this agreement.
A pragmatic way forward
The marriage age should be augmented and surveyed, especially to those families having a low income. Generally, the age to compete with a high school education would be 18, though, given the job prospects, it is highly unlikely to procure a white-collar job with this age. Therefore, examining higher degree opportunities must be installed into the youth, especially underprivileged individuals who think that marriage is the feasible option as paralleled to higher education.
It’s more imperative to attain an understanding of what comes after marriage. Social services, especially in cases related to extortion of the brides and abuse from laws about dowry cases, should be prioritized as women and children tend to suffer the most in a heinous marriage.
India needs to incorporate effective strategies to reduce early marriage such as financial incentives for poor families, community empowerment programs and expanding opportunities for primary and secondary education. Although many families believe that early marriage for girls is a way to improve their economic prospects. However, delaying marriage and increasing education is a better alternative in order to reduce poverty.
There should be a keen check on registered marriage licenses as many obtain duplicate certificates to get married. Still, many young brides in rural India are getting married; the term ‘Balika Vadhu’ should not be taken lightly. Countless young girls are seized away at a ripe age and treated as mere objects of exchange, mostly instigated by their in-laws, indirectly ruining marriage’s sacrosanctity. Marriage age should especially be kept in check in rural areas where boys and girls have no further knowledge of their rights and duties while going into a marriage. It is essential to check on the marriage age limit and make sure it is adhered to; people going against it are severely punished and made an example of others who choose to treat the marriage age as a mere pawn to be trifled with.
America has one of the most considerable divorce rates globally, as opposed to India, which has the lowest divorce rate globally. This can look good in the marriage brochure, although this is most likely due to the stigma attached to divorce. Since marriage is cogitated an eternal bond, the pressure inflicted upon its agreement must be made aware of. Individuals, especially divorcees, are deemed undesirable after separation, primarily due to religious and social obligations. Therefore, increasing the marriage age can help both Parties be more conversant about its implications before committing such a serious commitment.
The harmful practice of child marriage threatens the girl’s well-being and perpetuates the cycle of poor health and poverty. Addressing early marriage will help millions of girls fulfill their potentials and contribute to their families and communities, this will also help the nation meet goals related to gender equality, poverty reduction, education, and maternal-child health. This problem can be alleviated by addressing social, economic, and political factors and improving medical and educational services.
Education can solve countless problems; even in marriage, this goal can be achieved by educating our young girls and boys of India and providing them with an incentive to keep marriage as an option and not a means of escape or condemnation. A choice in which the sanctity of marriage is upheld.