Adolescent girls and marriage decision-making in India: questions of competency, choice and consent
In two recent Delhi High Court cases, judges recorded that girls below the age of 18 may willingly enter into marriage. The declaration that marriages involving girls below the legal age of marriage are “neither void nor illegal” has several implications for adolescent health as well as for health researchers and care providers. Is marriage involving a minor girl ethically acceptable under any circumstance? And of particular relevance to health researchers and care providers: do minor girls, particularly those below the age of 16 years, have the competency to make such decisions? To what extent can minor girls in the Indian context make “free, voluntary and informed decisions” regarding any issue including relationship s, marriage, and health care?
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