The marriage-related laws of Hindus, Muslims, Christians and even Parsis are now sought to be amended by one uniform law. The government's move is considered path-breaking
New Delhi: As many as seven marriage related laws affecting the marital lives of people from multiple communities will come under the scrutiny of a parliamentary panel.
In effect, the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill that seeks to raise the marriageable age to 21 for people of all communities would result in amendments to seven personal laws.
They are – the Hindu Marriage Act, the Indian Christian Marriage Act; the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act; the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act; the Special Marriage Act and the Foreign Marriage Act.
The Bill introduced in Lok Sabha during the just-concluded winter session of Parliament and piloted by the Women and Child Development Ministry has been referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, Women, Children, Youth and Sports.
The Bill, piloted by the Women and Child Development Ministry, seeks to increase the legal age of marriage from 18 to 21.
The committee is headed by BJP lawmaker Dr Vinay Sahasrabuddhe of Rajya Sabha. It has 31 members drawn from members from both the Houses of Parliament. The Department-Related Standing Committees are permanent, while joint and select committees
are constituted based on demands of members and necessities as felt by the treasury bench. Ten members are from Rajya Sabha and the remaining 21 from Lok Sabha.
Among others, R.S. Bharathi (DMK), Bhubaneswar Kalita (BJP) Dr M Thambidurai (AIADMK), Sushmita Dev (Trinamool),
Rajendra Agrawal (also BJP), Santokh Singh Chaudhary (Congress), Anubhav Mohanty (BJD) and Chandeshwar Prasad JD(U)
are members of the panel.
The legal age of marriage for women is being raised following recommendations of the Jaya Jaitley Committee that was constituted by the Women and Child Development Ministry in 2020.
The influential All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has urged the government to refrain from fixing any age of marriage.
The marriageable age for women has been fixed at 18 since 1978, but the norm applied to Hindus and Christians.
Introducing the draft law, Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani has said: "We are, in a democracy, 75 years late in providing equal rights to men and women to enter into matrimony”.
Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, sets a minimum age of 18 for the bride and 21 for the husband. This is the same for Christians under the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872, and the Special Marriage Act.
For Muslims, the marriageable age under Muslim Personal Law was allowed at “attaining puberty”— which is assumed when the bride or groom turns 15.