Jodhpur, Dec 15 (PTI) Amid the Centre readying itself to pilot a bill in Parliament to raise the marriageable age of girls from 18 to 21 years, the Rajasthan High Court has been awaiting its stand on enacting such a law for over a year and a half.
A Jodhpur bench of the high court had issued notices to the Centre, the Law Commission and the state government in February 2020 to enact a law to bridge the three-year gap between the marriageable ages of boys and girls.
A bench of then Chief Justice Indrajit Mohanthy and Justice P..S Bhati had issued the notices on a plea for it by Rajasthan resident Abdul Mannan.
In his petition, Mannan had sought the enactment of a law to raise the marriageable age of girls contending that a lower marriageable age of brides reeks of gender bias and discrimination, emanating from the bias in favour of the patriarchal society.
Mannan had also contended that the difference between the marriageable ages of grooms and brides violate the right to equality and equal protection of the law under Articles 14 and 15 and the right to life, and liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution. “My petition was based on various aspects of the constitutional violation, contravention of scientific researches and the observation of WHO and social inequality,” said Mannan.
In his petition, the first ground was that women have the fundamental right to be free to pursue education or any profession of their choice after finishing school which ends approximately at the age of 18 years.
But the ground reality is that after their marriage at such a young age, they are immediately expected to bear children after the marriage and forced to take up household chores in their families, Mannan said in his petition.
This harms her academic as well as economic pursuits and infringes upon their reproductive autonomy, he further said, adding that a girl at this age of marriage at 18 is not even a graduate and hence not able to foresee her future.
Citing various reports of the World Health Organization, he said it has been established that pregnancy before the age of 20 brings a higher risk of low birth rate and weight, premature delivery and severe neo-natal conditions besides several health hazards to newborns in coming years.
Quoting from the deliberations of a national conference on child marriage, held by the National Human Rights Commission, he also submitted before the court that 125 countries of the world have the same legal age of marriage for both the bride and the groom.
A recommendation from this conference had also been sent to bring parity in the marriageable age of both the bride and groom, he added.
Satisfied with his arguments and fact, the bench in its notices had sought reply from the state as well as central governments along with that of the Law Commission.
The petition is still pending awaiting replies. The Centre earlier had only told the court that a task force has been set up by the government to examine the issue, Mannan said.
The Centre is likely to pilot its bill in Parliament later this week to enact a law to raise the marriageable age of girls to 21, making it equal to that of boys.
The Centre, however, is likely to allow the bill to be referred to a parliamentary panel for a deeper examination of the social issue.