Marriage age of women to be raised from 18 to 21, bill in Parliament soon

The government is likely to bring a bill in the ongoing Winter Session of Parliament to amend the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, they said.
Representational Image. (File Photo)
Representational Image. (File Photo)

NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved a proposal to increase the legal age of marriage of women in India from 18 years to 21 years, setting in motion a wheel to change the norm that has existed for the last 43 years.

Sources in the government said that a bill in this regard was likely to be brought in the parliament soon.

In India, the legal age of marriage for women has been 18 years since 1978 while for men, this age is 21 years.

The approval by the cabinet follows an announcement by Modi in his Independence Day speech last year in which he had said that the government was considering increasing the age of marriage.

Before that, in June 2020, his government had set up a 10-member committee, headed by politician Jaya Jaitley to examine, among other things, whether the legal age of marriage for women should be raised.

The other members in the panel included V K Paul, member (health) Niti Aayog, secretaries of higher education, school education, health, women and child development, legislative department apart from academics Najma Akhtar, Vasudha Kamat and Dipti Shah.

The terms of reference for the task force had included examining the correlation of age of marriage and motherhood with health, medical well-being and nutrition of mother and child during pregnancy and later and also assessing how parameters like infant mortality rate, maternal mortality rate, total fertility rate, sex ratio at birth and child sex ratio are related to age of marriage and motherhood.

The committee had also been tasked with measures for promoting higher education among women and to suggest suitable legislative instruments or amendments in existing laws to support its recommendations.

Meanwhile women’s rights activists and bodies pointed out that the move may end up harming women’s cause rather than helping them.

Population Foundation of India, an NGO working in the field of women’s reproductive rights, for instance, said that increasing women's age of marriage is like "treating symptoms instead of the cause".

"While the concern with early marriage is a step in the right direction, legal action on this issue is akin to treating symptoms instead of the underlying causes which have allowed such a practice to exist for centuries," it said in a statement. "A whole range of factors such as deep-rooted gender inequality, regressive social norms, financial insecurity, lack of quality education and employment opportunities together contribute to the incidence of early and forced marriages."


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The New Indian Express