A plea filed in the Delhi High Court on Monday sought that the minimum age for women to marry be raised to 21, reported Bar and Bench. A bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar asked the Centre to respond to the petition by October 30, when it will take up the matter next.

Men in India are allowed to marry only after they reach the age of 21, while the legal age for women is 18.

Petitioner and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay said it was “blatant discrimination”. He added that the difference in minimum age of marriage was based on patriarchal stereotypes and had no scientific basis.

He also claimed that it violated the principles of gender equality, gender justice and dignity of women. “The petition challenges a blatant, ongoing form of discrimination against women,” read the plea. “That is the discriminatory minimum age limit for marriage for men and women in India.”

Upadhyay said there was a power imbalance in marriages as women were expected to play a subordinate role. He attributed the reason to the age difference. “A younger spouse is, therefore, expected to respect and be servile to her elder partner, which aggravates the pre-existing gender-based hierarchy in the marital relationship,” said the petition.