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I got married at the age of 26 and my husband was 29. I am from Russia and he is Indian. But in what age it’s considered “normal” to get married in our countries?
For the Indian middle class people of big cities (which are being most of my surroundings now) our age is not considered much late, it’s kind of average age of marriage here now. No one around thought that I was “old” already or anything like that. In Delhi, even for arranged marriages these days, many people don’t rush but wait when the girl will turn 24-25 and the guy 25-27 years old. My husband’s younger sister is 25 and their parents just recently started to talk to her about marriage, his older sister as well got married at the same age. Only about some castes in Delhi people say that they get married “early”, at 18-22.
But in India the marriage age is similar for people of same backgrounds. It’s somewhat decided by society more than by you: it matters more to what class, religion, caste you belong to, in what place you do live – means in what age it’s normal to get married for the people like you, not when you feel like getting married by your own. In Russia, suppose, there is no exact age to marry – because we practically don’t have arranged marriages (only Muslim people and some groups of immigrants from traditional countries can have it – but not always and there isn’t many of them – although just a 100 years ago arrange marriages were common among whole Russia too). But people in Russia can marry early by their choice as well, even during college times – and it’s not rare thing. Indians don’t believe me, when I say that people in Russia can even marry sometimes at 18-20 by their own choice, by it’s true – it was the case with my brother and his wife, for example. But it shouldn’t be necessary early – it depends when you find your love. Here, in Delhi, parents believe that their children should first get a degree, then to work/ to start business for few years: for a guy to achieve financial stability – this is an important factor in finding a bride for him, as well, and a girl – well, she can be forbidden to work after marriage, it happens sometimes, so let her work for 2-3 years (like this she might have more chances to keep working after marriage as well). Even if it is a love marriage, and the couple started to date during college (or sometimes even school), they will still be waiting for their 25-27 to get married. In Delhi, a 10-year relationship before marriage does not surprise people anymore. But they can hide their relationship from parents for almost all these 10 years as well! And might have a risk that the parents will not agree for their marriage after all and they will be left with arrange marriage option only. In Russia people don’t hide their relationships (unless they are teenagers), because if they won’t date anyone at all for long, even their parents will start getting worried – no dating means no chance to get married! And some people can also date for 10 years before they decide to get married, but it’s kind of rare thing: if people start dating early, they just marry after a few years. If Indian people want financial stability first and a guy judged by money factor, in Russia women (or their parents) who are looking for rich men are being judged (such girls can be called “sluts even). People aren’t looking for everything ready in marriage, they believe they can achieve it together and do everything in the same time: study and have a family, start a career/ a business and have a family…And if they care about money – it’s considered not a real love. But, well, there is way more benefits from governments for young families, children and parents of elderly age in Russia than in India – so that’s something that makes this difference in mentalities.
But not an early marriage is not the case for everyone in India. In general, according to the law in India, girls can get married at the age of 18, and guys are allowed to do it when they are 21 years old. In Russia both genders can do it when they are 18 years old. But in India, registration of marriage documents is not mandatory, with the exception of marriages of Indians and foreigners and the cases when a couple wants to go abroad after marriage. Even though the authorities want to make a court marriage mandatory for everyone, most couples in India marry only according to traditional and religious customs and then they are already considered married, a woman can change her surname simply by showing the pictures from her wedding. In Russia it’s quite the opposite: the court marriage is mandatory – otherwise couple isn’t considered married and the religious ceremony is done by choice (so not so many people decide to do it).
So, as a contrast to what was said in the beginning of this article: in Indian rural areas teenage marriages are practiced even now (can be 14-15 years for girls, or even younger sometimes). They, although legally forbidden, are not considered illegal if they have actually happened. According to the UN, this is the main reason why the tradition continues to flourish. Actually, the young couple has the right to annul their teenage marriage until the girl reaches the age of 20, and the guy the age of 23 (but it is unlikely that many people decide to do it because they can be afraid of the rejection of their parents and society). At the same time, sexual relationships with a girl under 18 in India are legally considered a crime, but… Not in the case of marriage (even if, in theory, such marriage is illegal) in case if the girl has reached the age of 15. Because of such marriages, India is among the ten leading countries in number of teenage pregnancies in the world – which was unexpected information to me, honestly, knowing how strict Indian culture can be.
Teenage pregnancy can happen in Russia as well, but the girls aren’t married in such cases. The legal age of marriage is 18 there, how I have already mentioned. But the age of 16 is considered the age of sexual consent in Russia. So if the person elder than 18 years old has done any sexual actions to the person under 16 (irrespective of gender), it is considered a criminal act. Sexual relationships between two people under 18 in Russia aren’t normally punishable. But if someone, who has reached the age of 14 has done any sexual actions to the person under the age of 12, it is considered a criminal act. In case of pregnancy, if one of the people has reached the age of 18 and another the age of 16, they can be allowed to get married presenting pregnancy papers (in some regions of Russia people can get married earlier than 16 in some emergency cases as well but not everywhere). However, the sexual relationships with someone under the age of sexual consent before marriage will be still considered a crime, and even if the couple got married, the adult person in that couple can still be jailed for the sexual relationships with minor before marriage.
In India, by the way, even if the couple are adults and they have had sexual relationships with consent (the sexual consent age is 18), but the guy has promised to the girl that they will get married and then they didn’t, the girl can complain about the rape.
As for small and medium cities in India, I can’t say what age is average to get married there. Everything can also vary from a region, from religion, from caste. Maybe my readers who live in India will tell us in comments at what age, on average, marriages do happen in their cities and states. According to statistics in India in general, the average age of marriage is 22.8 years.
According to statistics in Russia average marriage age for women is 25 and for men is 28.