As we grow older, we often take solace in the popular saying that ‘age is just a number’. However, when it pertains to the institution of marriage, it has legal and moral ramifications. What is the actual right age to marry? How young is too young?
The debate around the right age for marriage has been taking place across the world, albeit in a subdued manner. It is only when outrageous electoral promises are made that it becomes a part of our public discourse.
Shobha Chauhan, who contested the Rajasthan Assembly elections on a BJP ticket, promised recently that if she is elected, the people of her constituency will not be “harassed” by the police in child marriage cases.
#BJP Leader Shobha Chauhan makes controversial statement on Child marriage in #Rajasthan pic.twitter.com/gTrdUtVS20— Newsroom Post (@NewsroomPostCom) December 3, 2018
The audience reportedly responded to this promise by a loud applause. The prospects of winning an election has made her abandon reason and pander to crass patriarchy. India has the largest number of child brides in the world, with Rajasthan having the dubious distinction of having the highest number of child marriages in India.
However, the malaise of child marriage is not restricted to India or the developing world alone. Unchained At Last, a group that campaigns against child marriage in the United States of America, reported in 2017 that within a span of 15 years, over two lakh children were married off in the US.
Even though the minimum age to get married in the US in 18 years, legal loopholes, most often including ‘parental consent or pregnancy’ result in child marriage becoming difficult to eradicate.
Such realities make us question whether we have truly moved on since the medieval times. We still have not arrived at a consensus regarding what is the ideal age to be married. For instance, earlier this year, in February, the Supreme Court was petitioned by a lawyer that the minimum age for marriage must be raised to 21 for women and 25 for men. The reasons cited were mostly to do with controlling the population.
The petition implied that there must be an age difference between a married couple, and that a man must invariably be older than the woman. However, many people believe that the success of a marriage has more to do with how well a couple adjusts rather than the age difference between them.
Age, after all, is just a number!
Many people believe that the success of a marriage has more to do with how well a couple adjusts rather than the age difference between them. (Source: India Today/Photo for representation)
In fact, to promote ‘equality in the true sense, the insistence on recognising different ages of marriage between consenting adults must be abolished’, argued the Law Commission in August 2018.
It suggested that the minimum age for marriage be reduced to 18 for both women and men, across all ages.
While the progressive thought that there must be no insistence of an age difference between a married couple must be applauded, is 18 truly the right age to get married?
Those who propose that 18 is the correct age to tie the knot (including the Law Commission) argue that the universal age for majority is 18 and if those who have attained that age are eligible to vote, they surely must be eligible to be treated as adults.
However, are we truly mature (both physically and emotionally) by age 18 to be able to lead a married life?
While we have little control over how we mature physically, emotional maturity is entirely in our hands. Unfortunately, our education system does not equip us with the emotional intelligence required to establish, build and sustain relationships, much less train us for married life.
Our education system has less to do with education and more to do with training us for jobs — which ideally should be the function of human resources departments. Education must ideally train us for life and imbibe in us mutual respect. With about 65 per cent of India’s population below the age of 35, the youth hope the older generations will guide us maturely — or maybe age is just a number!
Also read: Rajasthan elections results: Credit for turning a lost battle into a close fight goes to Vasundhara Raje
Also read: Assembly Elections 2018: 5 reasons why celebrating victory with a naagin dance should be banned. Forever