History of legal marriage age for women in India

New Delhi: The Union Cabinet has passed a proposal to increase the minimum legal age for marriage of women from 18 to 21 years.

After the cabinet’s approval, the government will have to amend the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, Special Marriage Act, and the Hindu Marriage Act to implement the decision.

The legal marriage age for women in India was first set to 14 years in 1929. It was defined in Child Marriage Restraint Act. The same act also set the legal marriage age for men to 18 years.

After the independence, the law was amended twice i.e., in 1949 and 1978. Both the amendments have increased the marriage age for women.

In 1949, the age for women was increased to 15 and no changes were made to the marriage age of men. The ages for women and men were increased to 18 and 21 respectively in 1978.

In most parts of the world, child marriage was predominant before the industrial revolution. People used to marry their daughters immediately after they reach puberty.

Although it has changed, different marriage ages have been set in countries across the globe.

The lowest legal marriage age for women across the world is in Trinidad and Tobago, an island country in the Caribbean. The marriage age for women in the island country is 18 years, however, Muslims and Hindus have their own marriage act. According to the act, the island’s Muslim girls can marry at the age of 12 years whereas Hindu girls can marry after they turn 14. The second lowest legal marriage age for women is in Iran i.e., 13 years.

The highest legal marriage age for women is in China i.e., 20 years.