The Discriminated Age of Marriage
If you are young, Indian and male, you can get married once you are 21. If you are young, Indian and female, you can get married at 18. Yes, if you are a girl you can get married only at 18.
If you Google the list of marriageable age across countries, you will find out that on an average it is between 18 to 20 in most countries, however, mostly the age of a girl and boy are same. Our neighbours, like Pakistan has a marriageable age of 16 for girls, while for a boys 18 set as the marriageable age; in Nepal the law is same as India, girls 18, boys 21 and in China it is 22 for males and 20 for girls. I don’t want to intervene with the laws of another country. But I am puzzled why in our country is a girl expected to be mature and marriageable at 18 while boys enjoy the freedom to remain juvenile till 21. Why as a woman shall we be expected to be eligible, marriageable and mature till the age of 18? We are not living in any European or American Country that by the time we are 18, we are free to leave our parent’s house, live an independent life and earn our own living. We are Indians, who are to be bound to the family forever, who remain under the pressure of the family and societal norms all our life. Most of all, as an Indian girl, we are expected to be perfect women, in stereotypical terms, (there are pre-requisites of what an Indian bride should be like). So, once we are 18, we know we can get married anytime thereafter, hence, that is all the time we have to shape up as a person and become what the society ought us to be. It may sound alien to the metropolitan residents; however it isn’t anything queer for those who live in the small towns and villages of India. We still have girls there getting married as soon as they touch the legal/ideal marriageable age.
So, why the difference? We talk of equality, women rights and feminism, however not often do we talk about this fundamental flaw in the law that discriminates against women. We can be married by 18, let me tell you what it actually means – this means, we can be married, sit at home, become a housewife, give up our individuality, rear children and live that life afterward forever. (I am not cynical, I am realistic, since this is what an Indian girl’s life is after marriage, on an average). I don’t say a girl’s marriageable age’s limit should be exceeded to 21 neither do I ask for a guy’s age to be reduced to 18. I just ask for it to be put to equilibrium. It should be made equal. And every logic supports it! Can anyone give me a well argued, sound and rational reason why is there a difference in the marriageable age of a girl and boy? Ahead of the Mother’s day, I feel we need to revisit our notions of what a woman’s life is in India is, once again. The day we don’t need to celebrate woman’s day, mother’s day or daughter’s day shall be the day of real celebration since that will be the day our world becomes equal, sensible and humane.
———— About the Author: This article is contributed by Ojaswini Srivastava. Ojaswini is a Respect Women’s contributor and a student of English Literature at the University of Delhi, who looks forward to study and work on gender issues. Believing herself as a feminist, an agnostic, thinker and writer, she aspires to become a respected writer someday!