Published on: December 18, 2021




The Union Cabinet has cleared 21 years as the minimum marriage age for women, from 18 earlier .It is based on the recommendation of a panel led by Jaya Jaitly.


What is the minimum age of marriage?

  • Section 5(iii) of The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, sets a minimum age of 18 for the bride and 21 for the groom.
  • Same for Christians under the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 and the Special Marriage Act.
  • For Muslims, the criteria is attaining puberty, which is assumed when the bride or groom turns 15.

Why is there a minimum age?

  • Essentially to outlaw child marriage.
  • Done through special legislation such as the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
  • Under the Child Marriage Prevention Act, any marriage below the prescribed age is illegal and the perpetrators of a forced child marriage can be punished.

What happens to such marriages once detected?

  • Child marriages are illegal but not void
  • Voidable at the option of the minor party
  • Marriage can be declared void by a court only if the minor party petitions the court
  • Flexibility is kept to ensure that the rights of the minor, especially the girl, is not taken away in marital homes later on.
  • If a court finds a minor was coerced into marriage by parents or guardians, the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act come into effect to keep the custody of the minor until he or she attains majority and can make a decision on the marriage.

What laws will have to be changed to raise the minimum age of marriage?

First, the age limit in the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act will have to be changed. The government had indicated this will be followed by necessary changes in personal law. The Hindu Marriage Act, the Indian Christian Marriage Act and the Special Marriage Act will also have to be change consequently. However, changes in the Muslim law could raise significant legal issues.