A knot of parity
Madras High Court’s recent suggestion to increase the marriageable age of girls from 18 to 21 years is not only a welcome step but can also be heralded as the harbinger of change, only if it is considered. The arguments presented by the divisional bench while suggesting some amendments to the Indian Majority Act 1875 and the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 are nothing less than praiseworthy. The patriarchal antipathy of the society as also advocated by the Indian constitution is a matter too grave to be left unheeded in present times. When it is true that both girls and boys grow in a similar environment and mature together, how is it then possible to marry a girl at 18 and not marry a boy till 21 years of age? Why should women not be given an equal opportunity at education and why it has to be ordained that a woman can only live on her husband’s largesse and not earn a living for oneself? With 240 million child marriages, it is shameful to admit that even in present times, India accounts for a third of child marriage in the world. The country is placed sixth in the list of top 10 countries with high rates of child marriage too, behind only the Central African Republic. It is also appalling that in the top 10 countries list, India is the only nation that has both the extremes to show. While on one hand, the country is aspiring to be a global superpower, on the other it is still mired in utterly backward-looking and plainly uncivilised societal constraints. The high number of child marriages becomes even more dubious after it was ascertained that an estimated 80.5 per cent Hindus, who may or may not adhere to the Hindu law, which has fixed 21 years as the marriageable age, live in India. Agreed, India is not a theocratic state but with the majority number being that huge, questions should indeed be raised at the government’s capability to tackle this ancient practice. It should now be the Modi government’s mandate to seize the opportunity.