CHENNAI: The Centre’s approval of a proposal for a law to raise the marriage age of women to 21 years has been hogging the limelight recently, but Tamil Nadu’s welfare schemes have been incentivising, for decades, marriages wherein women are above 18.
Under the Moovalur Ramamirtham Ammaiyar Ninaivu Marriage Assistance Scheme, the State government provides a cash assistance of Rs 25,000. Four other schemes – for the marriage of widows, poor widows’ daughters, orphans, and inter-caste couples – also provide this assistance. These schemes were launched between 1967 and 1989.
To promote education among women, AIADMK government on May 17, 2011, increased the assistance to Rs 50,000 (for women graduates or diploma-holders). The minimum age for availing the benefit is 18 years and for graduates and diploma-holders, it is 20.
Moreover, in 2016, the gold provided under the Thalikku Thangam scheme for marriage of poor women was increased from four to eight grams. It was launched in 2011.An official from the social welfare department said: “A woman graduating from a poor family is eligible for eight grams of gold and Rs 50,000 for her marriage. The number of applications received from graduates increased substantially in the last few years.”
While acknowledging the roles played by Dravidian parties and the self-respect movement led by Periyar in women’s empowerment, a section of academicians attributed the increasing marriage age of women in the State to the changing socio-economic conditions.
However, Dr J Jeyaranjan, the Vice Chairman of State Development Policy Council (SDPC), questioned the rationality in increasing the marriage age for women without spelling out plans to improve health and education levels.
The government releases financial benefits for 1.12 lakh people a year, and Rs 736 crore was earmarked for this year. This is believed to have increased the marriage age for women in rural areas