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The Age of Marriage Debate in India: Continuities and a Need for Change ( 20th ( 7 am to 9:30 am)

If we talk about India, in earlier times as far as our records can be traced in history, from around 200 to 700 AD, young men and women had the freedom to choose their own partners for marriage. However, as the state started intervening it tried to transform the lifestyle and opinion of its society gradually. 

At that time the age of eight  (i.e, after the upanayana sanskar) he would stay at this Guru’s place gaining knowledge, thereafter, before entering gruhasthashram (i.e, the period of household affair handling) he would spend a few years acquiring the skills and ability to earn a livelihood. According to this calculation, the ideal age for a boy’s marriage is thus around twenty-five to thirty, while the girl after crossing her childhood stage, would start learning to shoulder household responsibility and by twenty-five, to thirty she becomes ideal for marriage. 

 It was believed during those times that if two persons know each other right from childhood it enhanced understanding and affection. Hence, parents decided to the marriage of their children at a very early age although the daughter stayed with her parents until she attained the age of puberty.

The Age of Consent Act which was enacted in the year 1891 further added to the complexities of this debate as it posed a threat to Brahminical Patriarchy which placed a high premium on the virginity of the child brides

The conflict which took place between British liberals and 

The question now lies in whether the age ceiling for marriage will actually make any significant change in women’s empowerment. Isn’t there any hidden paternalistic motive to indicate that women are not mature enough to consider their own rights and make their own decision, considering the fact there were no women activists or child rights activists’ opinions taken? 

Such acts can affect a women’s rights over her own body. For example, after the introduction of the POCS act, which undoubtedly focuses on the prevention of sexual exploitation of children by adults. It also complicates the discussion surrounding the age of marriage as it indirectly raises the age for consent to 18 years. Families who now sanction their daughters who have a consensual sexual relationship or have eloped, making it a punishment more than mere protection. The same goes for when we increase the age assigned for marriage we can also question the fact that if we are allowing an 18-year-old to vote and decide for the sovereign but at the same time we can’t give her the right to choose whom she wants to marry. 

In the parliament, the criticism rose to centre beti bachao programme. 

By Zoya Hossain