Married at 18?

marriage.jpgIn what could be a very controversial decision, the Law Commission has recommended that the marriageable age for both boys and girls should be fixed at 18 years. While marriages below 18 years for both sexes should be prohibited, that below 16 will be considered void. Currently, the marriageable age for boys is 21 while that for girls is 18. It indeed needs to be considered whether such a decision can be taken so easily. The panel headed by Justice A.R Lakshmanan may have made this proposal after prolonged debate, yet it remains to be seen how the government responds to it. Statistics aside, it is a marriage undeniably entails major responsibility for both the parties. There are a plethora of issues involved in a marriage, not the least of which is economic.We need to examine carefully the ablity of the young people to earn and become financially independent at the age of 18. Marrying without a basic economic grounding is not just irresponsible, it is also unethical. One may ask what are the ethics involved? Quite simply if this proposal expects 18-year olds to be given the ‘rights’ of adults, it must also attribute to them the same amount of responsibilities.There is of course, in this suggestion, a very true recognition of the fact that 18-year olds are generally mature enough to take such decisions themselves. After all, many will argue that 18 year olds have been given many other constitutional rights , then why not marriage? However, it is important to take into account the fact that a marriage is deemed to be a life-long commitment and brings with itself the entirely new duty of supporting and being responsible for another individual as well. Till now, the marriageable age was fixed at 21 years for boys, as it was expected that by 21 they would have found some sort of standing in life. However, 18 is an age when one is still in the midst of getting an education. Marriage at such an age, even if the person has the required maturity is really not feasible.The government must consider the pros and cons very carefully, before making a final decision. It must be kept in mind that though questions of maturity are involved in this potentially sensitive issue, there are deeper matters which in the long run may have a profound impact on our society.Ipshita Ghosh