India's federal government has told the Delhi High Court that a task force has been set up to study the age at which girls are entering motherhood. The court was hearing a petition seeking an identical minimum age of marriage for both men and women.
The public interest petition, filed by Ashwini Upadhyay of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, has stated that the differential bar discriminates against women and contradicts the fundamental principles of gender equality, gender justice and the dignity of women while breaching Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution.
The petitioner highlighted the social reality in India, where "women are expected to have children immediately after marriage and also forced to take up household roles in the family. This harms their educational as well as economic pursuits and often impinges on their reproductive autonomy as well."
The petitioner had said that it was blatant discrimination against women based in patriarchal stereotypes, which lack scientific backing.
Upadhyay in his petition has claimed that more than 125 countries in the world have a uniform age of marriage for men and women. India's human rights watchdog, the National Human Rights Commission had also recommended in August 2019 that the country should follow suit and bring the minimum age limits into uniformity.
A similar petition has also been filed in the High Court of Rajasthan by Abdul Mannan, seeking to declare the legal age of marriage for women, presently 18 years, unconstitutional.
The court had asked the federal and state governments to respond to the petition.