MEMORANDUM ON DELHI HC ORDER ON AGE OF CONSENT
9 October 2005
Dear Shri Bharadwajji,
On behalf of the All India Democratic Women’s Association, we wish to express our deep concern about the recent judgment of the Delhi High Court, which lays down a general principle that the marriage of a minor girl is justified on grounds that it was of her own volition.
Child marriage continues to be one of the major reasons for continuing high rates of maternal and child mortality in India, and adversely affects women’s educational and social status. By advancing the argument that a girl above 15 years can be said to have reached the “age of discretion” and any wilful marriage by her would be considered “valid, enforceable and recognizable in courts of law”, the Court seeks to reopen an issue around which a consensus was built after a long debate and struggle on the question of the age of consent.
As it stands, the present law sets the age of marriage of a woman at 18 years. Despite this, child marriage continues to be a wide-spread phenomenon in several parts of India. Such a judgment sends a wrong signal by condoning a violation of the law and could very well be used to legitimize child marriage. The reality is that many women are being forced into marriages at an early age against their will, often at the expense of their education and health. Many adult young women are equally denied their democratic right to marry of their own choice, as evident from the alarming number of “honour killings”.
The AIDWA demands that the Government appeals against the judgment. We also demand that the Child Marriage Restraint Act be amended to prescribe a minimum age below which any child marriage will not be valid, and stronger punishments for contravention of the law.
Subhashini Ali Brinda Karat Sudha Sundararaman
President Vice-President General Secretary
U. Vasuki Kiran Moghe Kirti Singh
Secretary Secretary Convenor, Legal Committee