fifty years ago DECEMBER 27, 1971 Archives

From the Archives (December 27, 1971): Bill to raise minimum age of marriage

New Delhi, Dec. 26: The Government, in addition to the existing family planning programmes, is seriously thinking of raising the legal minimum age of marriage with a view to bringing down the birth rate. A draft Bill to suitably amend the Sharada Act which is considered to be ineffective has already been prepared by the Ministry of Health and Family Planning. The Government, by raising the minimum age of marriage for girls from 15 to 18 and of boys from 18 to 21, hopes that there will be a “saving in terms of birth rate to the extent of 30 per cent.” The Sharada Act, first enacted in 1929 and subsequently amended in 1949 and 1956, raised the legal age of marriage for girls to 15 years and for boys to 18 years. But under the present Personal Law Enactments of different communities (eg., Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 or the Muslim Personal Law and Customary Laws) the minimum ages are different and they range in the case of males from 15 to 21 years and from 12 or 13 to 21 years in the case of females. The Child Marriage Act, which is a punitive measure having nothing to do with the validity or otherwise of marriages, provides for certain penalties for contracting, solemnising or abetting a marriage where the male party is under 18 years of age or the female is under 15. But the Government is of the opinion that though the Sharada Act is considered to be the “torchbearer” for social transformation, it is defective in the sense that the offence committed under the Act had to be brought to the notice of the Government.

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