Local Self Government under IUML issue circular legalizing child marriage to aid ‘Population Explosion’

published on June 20, 2013

Legalizing marriageable age of Muslim girls below 18: Law or appeasement politics?


According to a Local Self Government (LSG) department circular issued by Kerala government, registrars across the state have been notified that Muslim marriages involving a male aged less than 21 and a female aged less than 18 is legal. However, reports state that registrars are unconvinced and the facts are allegedly misrepresented.

The circular dated June 14, 2013 specifies that “The Child Marriage Prohibition Act, 2006, does not deem marriage between a male aged below 21 and a female aged below 18 null and void.”

However, the new decree stands contradictory to the very which that defines a “child as a person who, if a male, has not completed 21 years of age, and if a female, has not completed 18 years of age.”

The circular calls for these marriages to be registered in accordance with Kerala Marriages Registration Act, Section (9) 3. The parties concerned have also been directed to produce a document that is certified by the concerned religious authority.

“Such marriages should be registered in accordance with Kerala Marriages Registration Act,” says the circular.

However, it has been alleged that the circular violates provisions in Special Marriage Act 1954 as well. The Act states that in a marriage that has to be solemnized, “the man has to be 21 years old and the woman must be 18 years of age.”

Both the Child Marriage Prohibition Act and Special Marriage Act abide by the entire nation except the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The government decided to issue the circular following complaints that registrars have been denying marriage certificates to Muslim girls and boys below the specified age.

“The circular has been issued as a reminder to those registrars who have refused to register the marriages of Muslim girls who get married below 18. It has been introduced to clear certain confusion regarding the registration of Muslim marriages. The law department had analyzed it before the issuance of the circular,” said James Varghese, principal secretary, LSG department.

The decree has not found support amongst all members of the Muslim community. Even though the Muslim Marriage Act, 1957, does not make it mandatory for a boy to be 21 years and girl to be 18 years at the time of marriage, many feel that the move is questionable from the legal point of view and encourages the regressive society.

According to noted writer and critic MN Karassery, the order calls for protests and “challenged before a court of law.” “This would come in the way of Muslim women’s social advancement as marriage below the age of 18 would hamper their political and educational life besides thwarting their chances of getting a job,” he said.

The circular cries of “religious discrimination” and “marriageable age should be the same for all women in the country, irrespective of their religion. But this order offers a different marriageable age for the women of a particular community,” said Karassery.


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