India - The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 - Equality Now

India - The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956

  • Country: India
  • Law status: Discriminatory law in force
  • Law Type: Marriage, Divorce, Polygamy & Wife Obedience

Sex discrimination in marital status laws renders women and girls subordinate in many aspects of family relations before, during and after marriage.

Laws that give preferential right of custody or guardianship over children to the father over the mother discriminate against women and are based on a sex stereotype that views men as superior to women. These laws also limit a mother’s ability to make decisions about the upbringing of her own child. In addition, the husband of a minor girl (though they were married unlawfully) may also be considered her “guardian”.

The Law:

Section 6 of India’s Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 provides that the natural guardian of a Hindu minor boy or unmarried girl is the father, and only after him, the mother. It also provides that the guardian of a married minor girl is her husband.

Section 6. Natural Guardian: The natural guardians of a Hindu, minor, in respect of the minor’s person as well as in respect of the minor’s property (excluding his or her undivided interest in joint family property), are – (a) in the case of a boy or an unmarried girl—the father, and after him, the mother: provided that the custody of a minor who has not completed the age of five years shall ordinarily be with the mother; (b) in the case of an illegitimate boy or an illegitimate unmarried girl – the mother, and after her, the father; (c) in the case of a married girl – the husband.

Note: Article 14 of the Constitution of India: The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.
Article 15(1): The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.

Link to full law

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