[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE Delhi High Court on Monday sought a reply from the central government on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) demanding a uniform minimum age of marriage for both men and women.
PIL was heard by a division bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C. Hari Shankar, which fixed the matter for further hearing on October 30.
The petition was filed by advocate and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashwini Upadhyay on August 14. It described the current minimum marriage age for men and women as “discriminatory”, saying that the marriage age for women in India is 18 whereas for the men it is 21.
Referring to gender equality and gender justice, the petition has further noted that the difference in marriageable ages was “based in patriarchal stereotypes, had no scientific backing, perpetuated…inequality between men and women.”
It also pointed out that the age-difference was also an affront to the fundamental rights of both sexes. The difference is against Article 14 (right to equality), Article 15 (anti-discrimination law), and Article 21 (protection of life and liberty), the petition argued.
Men and women should not get married before they are 21-years-old, the petition read.
The plea relies on several World Health Organisation reports that said, “marriage of women before the age of 20 faces a higher risk of low birth weight, preterm delivery, and severe neonatal conditions.”
Upadhya’s petition noted, “Men aren’t expected to marry before 21-years to allow them to study, work. Women should be conferred the same opportunity.”
“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,” the petition maintained, requesting the court that 21 be set minimum marriage age limit for both the sexes.