Illustration by Soham Sen | ThePrint
Illustration by Soham Sen | ThePrint
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The Narendra Modi government plans to reduce the marriageable age for men to 18 from 21, as earlier sanctioned in the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. The government has also proposed to make child marriages void at the outset.

ThePrint asks: Modi govt considers lowering marriage age for males: Can Indian men handle it at 18?

If law sees individuals aged 18 as adults, then teenagers should have the right to marry at that age

Madhu Mehra
Executive Director, Partners of Law in Development

I think the question is framed provocatively to obscure both the reasoning for the change and the human rights issues involved. At 18, a person attains legal adulthood and is assumed to have the capacity to marry.

If the change is an acknowledgement of the capacities related to adulthood, then it is equally necessary to talk about the legal capacity for sexual consent, which is 18 years at present. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the World Health Organization recognise sexuality to be an intrinsic aspect of adolescence.

Yet, in complete disregard of both international law and biology, India increased the age of consent from 16 to 18 years in 2012. This makes for a confusing legal framework. It infantalises all persons from 0-18 into compulsory abstinence, who suddenly assume maturity as they turn 18 and, in the case of women, become legally eligible to marry.

International law recognises capacities as evolving in children, who are sexually curious and active from puberty onwards. Sexual consent flows from a recognition of adolescent sexuality, while a minimum age of marriage is predicated on legal capacity to contract, take up employment, manage finances and so on.

To conflate the two, as the Indian law currently does, is principally flawed, and very harmful to young persons. There is abundant evidence of the harm in terms of the growing criminalisation of young boys from poor and marginalised backgrounds; and the barriers this poses to girls accessing sexual health services, abortion and childbirth.

Men not equipped to marry at 18 because women are restricted from expressing their desires at any age

Ishan Mahendru
Assistant Manager, Centre for Studies in Gender and Sexuality

I do not think anyone, regardless of the age, is ever ready for something as heady, unimaginative, and unreasonable an institution as marriage (let alone cis-het men). However, we don’t live in an atomised world, and in India especially, individuals are not encouraged to make decisions for and by themselves.

The current law in question is being considered in a certain socio-political context. While it might seem revolutionary and a welcome idea to universalise the age of marital consent for all genders, the proposition needs to be looked at through the lenses of our social customs and practices.

For one, our campaigns might want to talk about increasing the age of marital consent for women rather than reduce it for men. The proposed change does little to tackle child marriage and serves only as a distraction from the complicated layers behind questions of women’s agency, consent, and adolescent sexuality.

Early-age pregnancy for women, for instance, is considered harmful for the health of a young woman. The government should look to ensure smoother and friendlier infrastructure for securing abortions, and also address the ways in which families misuse the POCSO Act to curb consensual adolescent sexuality.

I think men are not equipped to marry at the age of 18 because women are socially restricted from expressing their own aspirations or desires at any age. These questions are never singular, and cannot be dealt with by something as simplistic as a change in marital age for men alone.

Keeping marriageable age different is linked to the patriarchal idea that husband should be older than wife

Janaki Abraham
Associate Professor

It is a welcome move, because if you are an adult and old enough to vote, you should have a right to marry. The idea that there are different ages at which men and women can marry does not make sense. If men and women are equal, they should also be allowed to marry at the same age. Having different ages of marriage for men and women is linked to the idea that a husband should be older than his wife. This is patriarchal. It also feeds into the idea that the husband should be taller, have a fatter salary, and command authority over the wife. In that sense, to have an equal age of marriage is a good thing.

In India, the battle has been against child marriage, so it would not make any sense to suggest a legislation where a woman’s age to marry is increased to 21. The number of instances of both men and women marrying before 18, particularly women, is very high. So increasing it to 21 will only further add to the numbers violating the law. It will also be impossible to implement.

Also read: Age of marriage for men could soon be reduced to 18

By 18, men are mature enough. And if they are not, they will remain immature even at 21

Geeta Luthra | Qamar Sibtain/The India Today Group/Getty Images

Geeta Luthra
Senior Advocate

The marriageable age ought to be standardised. Young people today are increasingly marrying at a young age, and due to the lack of an option to marry legally, are running away from homes. The youth today mature at an early age. Hence, reducing the marriageable age for men is a better option than legally barring them from marrying until they are 21 years old.

Indian laws give 18-year-olds the right to vote, drive, and, in some states, consume alcohol. Clearly, if these are permissible, they are mature enough to marry and choose their partner. There is no uniformity in Indian legislations when it comes to age, be it the Hindu Marriage Act, the Indian Majority Act, Juvenile Justice Act or provisions of the Indian Penal Code. Parliament changed the age of consensual sex from 16 to 18 years in 2012.

When considering such far-reaching amendments in the law, I believe Parliament should look at research studies, with inputs from paediatricians and psychiatrists, before coming to a conclusion. Decisions cannot be knee-jerk on such issues.

To my mind, someone aged 18 is mature enough. And if a person is immature, he will remain so even at the age of 21. So, the best solution is to draw conclusions from empirical studies. But as far as the move to reduce the marriageable age for men is concerned, it seems to be the right one.

Bigger question is if a woman looking for a wealthy groom will accept a younger man who isn’t well-off

Amit Lakhani
President, Men Welfare Trust

The question isn’t whether Indian men can handle standardisation of age for marriage. The bigger question is whether an Indian woman, who mostly looks for a well-educated groom with a house, assets, financial securities, a promising career, and sufficient income to support the entire family, will accept a younger man who would probably not possess all of these.

Article 14 of our Constitution provides for equal protection irrespective of gender, but factually, the matrimony-related laws, and those related to domestic violence, cruelty (498-A), maintenance, child custody are all wife-centric and are being blatantly misused when marriages don’t work for whatever reasons. Somewhere, this is killing the institution of marriage in India.

If the Modi government is indeed concerned, it should first standardise and make these laws gender neutral, curb the misuse and also work upon imparting basic knowledge of these laws at the college level. When it comes to marriage, Indian men are certainly second-class citizens.

If a woman is expected to look after an alien household at 18, there is no reason why a man can’t handle marriage

Sanya Dhingra
Special Correspondent, ThePrint

The Narendra Modi government’s proposal is welcome for several reasons. It repudiates the patriarchal notion that women need to marry earlier than men and some socially constructed essentialist ideas that women mature earlier than men. The proposal signals an attempt to remove a needless distinction between men and women, which is rooted in the anachronistic morality of Indian society.

To those asking why not increase the age of marriage for women rather than lowering it for men, the answer is simple: It is not the state’s business to tell when adults can marry. Marriages of young adults can be discouraged by ensuring that more women opt for higher education and are financially independent. But if an adult chooses to get married at an early age (not child marriage), their decision cannot be rendered null and void by the state.

For young couples who fall in love outside their caste or religion, marriage is the only way to legitimise the relationship in the face of hostility from families and communities. They cannot be denied this assertion of their autonomy only because some find the idea of early marriage too repugnant.

As for men being able to handle a marriage early – if, according to the state and society, an 18-year-old woman can move to an alien home where the in-laws expect her to start procreating immediately and look after the household, then there is no reason why an 18-year-old man cannot handle a marriage.

Also read: Does India’s low rank on global divorce rate indexes mean happy marriages or social pressure?

By Taran Deol, journalist at ThePrint

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  1. I say Modi government should declara as soon as possible for the age of boys boys should as get equal age as girls boys are Equal to girls boys as should get marriage at the age of 18

  2. The law which states that boy should be 18 to marry is only because a men marries a girl younger then if they let an 18 year old to marry,he will want to marry under 18 girls.but honestly,if the governement allows 18 year old boys to marry,can that boy marry an under 18 girl?no.because this is the boy will either choose girl of his age.there is no chance that that the boy will marry an under 18 girl.if the 18 year old boy want 16 girls,then 30 year old mens also want to marry 16 year old will high coart make boys marriage age 31?the law is made to protect childs.but there is no chance of child marriage increasing,just because of letting a boy marry at 18.because an 18 year old boy knows that marrying younger then 18 is illegal and he can’t do he will find a girl of his age.this law has no logic,no reference.also the boy who married at18-21 will be imprisoned for 2 years and 1 lakh rupees fine for no reason.they made this law to destroy a young boys career and life.why it is considered as crime?i think,supreemcoart judges drink too much.thats why they made such dengerous and illogical law.this is violation of human right and this illegal law must be stopped.think about 18 year old lovers who are muslims or hindus.what can they do?they can’t consent for sex before this is unfair to them.and if a boy aged 18-21 marries,he should not be punished or imprisoned for 2 years and charged 1 lakh rupees.give this punishment to those who marries an under 18 girls

  3. Increase age of girls to 21,because many couples of same age are not accepted by their family and the girl is married as she turns 18 and boy hangs to suicide.
    Reducing the age of boys will create problems,because a boy or a girl at 18 are only 12th pass,they cannot afford good lifestyle. Atleast they can have a degree till the age of 21 and live freely.
    Here the matter is not about physical or mental maturity but to live on their own if their parents rejected them.Thats freedom!

  4. I just want ro say one thing repsect freedom liberty of mens pf our country and in single line i just want to say that qho are you to decide man at age of 18 yr is not ready for mareiage or he dont wants or he can’t handle?? M i shockes that people are taking decisions pf other dude its our life u r nothing to do it with if we are ready then whts fhe peblm 18 year is considered to be an adult age we we can vote we can have physical relation many of now couples to save themselfe have ro marry wants to marry some do suicides there are several cases think about tht!!!!!!!! But u r thinking avout there decisions imp should be they shld be 18 year and the girl should have free willl thrs enough!!!!!! Make the law strict instead of age at fhe age of 23 25 26 girls are getting married frocesly now qhere r u??? Justify this the prioriry should be the free will and 18+ we cn do all the things after 18 but not marriage hann????? R u there to rake of them r u there ro give rhen jobs will u be there to care of them every time will u make dood for fthem qull u feeed them then who fhe fuck Re tou to decide rhey arw nor ready or every shit i reas in rhis article

    Prioriry should be 18 yrs and free will

    Warna jabardasti shaadi ldkio ki 18 k baad bhi hoti hai 20 k baad bhi 🙏 stop taking decisions of other just improvw the laws and let the people enoy there independent life!!!!! If fhey cn do everysinglw thing so why cnt marriage after 18!!!!!!!

  5. Does, girl age is more than boys age…!
    Ex: girl age 25 , boy age 24½
    It is suitable to marry

  6. The marriagable age should be 18 for both females and males. There should be no distinction. Both ate adults and can make their life decisions. Give them the right.

  7. This law should be implemented as soon as possible. India has a 1.3 billion population. Everyone has not the same ideology. Reduce marriageable age of men to 18 very soon .

  8. Sir or madam I have small dought 21years complete or 21years running to marriage
    I have 21years running I marry a right age or not

  9. At 18 he is not independent to support a family .the woman is too young physically to start family life for obstetric amd gynecological reasons . Better decrease the age for punishing crime than for marriage. If they cant wait for 3 years to settle down in life probably it becomes more difficult for education career etc

    • How did you come to know such concrete ideas that at the age of 18 an adult is not ready or responsible enough to marry.

    • Actually the age of curiosity in teens for socialising beign active, physically, sexually is lot more due to the birth of testosterone in mens body from puberty, a man even at 18 need someone to love and give love. Anyways you want understand cold blooded old monster with a iron heart how does the young blood feel

  10. This should be implemented immediately because due to caste differences and age differences so many members getting depressed and attempting for suicide.
    And this is gonna help our youth to decide our own government too, as the teenagers becomes majors they can vote and choose their govt as well as get married.
    Then no more suicides and my opinion as the modi govt implements this they also help every teenager to get income.
    In any family nowadays when girls attain 18 years gets married, now if men gets 18 for marriage then they manage by studying too, so theres no difference.
    My final opinion is this implementation helps many teenagers and make them very very comfortable and happy.

  11. Men also have right to marriage at the age of 18.Government should take immediate action and pass the appeal of sir Ashwini Kumar upadhyay

  12. This is very important.Many of youth will be happy with modi government.In india all are equal then why the age for marriage is different.If then don’t want to reduce men age increase women age for marriage of 21.Then it is equal . Many of lovers getting sucides of this age difference.So please don’t think about haters. We all are with modi sir.

  13. Good article by the Print. Marriage can only bring disaster for man at any age. Better to read Print and go your own way.

  14. Classic Modi decision based on inconclusive, improper facts from poor survey. Another demonetization type….

  15. By 18 years a boy is only 12-pass. He can only work as a labourer. Age of 21 at least gives him a chance to study for graduation before marriage and at least hope for a better job.

  16. I would say men should marry at 25, when they are in a position to support a family. When my parents got married, that meant the wife would be 20. Emotionally and in so many other ways, a man – or even a woman – may not be ready to make a lifelong commitment at such an impressionable age. Till death do us part is something I still believe in.

    • All people might not be like you. It doesn’t mean that all male are immature if you was immature when you was 18. Time is changing bro. NOW A DAYS AGE IS REALLY JUST A NUMBER…

  17. Is this the most important issue for the government OR is it an issue of such strategic importance that I fail to appreciate? That said, any such move without sex-education in schools may have no effect on whatever GOI is trying to achieve.

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