The Union Cabinet has passed a proposal to raise the legal age of marriage for women from 18 to 21 years â€” the same as men.
According to the report, following Cabinet approval of the Bill, the government will introduce a modification to the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, as well as amendments to the Special Marriage Act and personal laws such as the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
The Bill’s proposals are based on recommendations submitted to Niti Aayog in December 2020 by the Centre’s task force, led by Jaya Jaitly, to investigate “matters pertaining to the age of motherhood, imperatives of lowering MMR (Maternal Mortality Rate), improvement of nutritional levels, and related issues.”
â€œI want to make clear that our reasoning behind the recommendation was never one of population control. Recent data released by NFHS 5 (National Family Health Survey) have already shown that the Total Fertility Rate is decreasing and the population is under control. The idea behind it (the recommendation) is the empowerment of women,â€ Jaitly stated
Jaitly, a former president of the Samata Party, stated that,” the task force’s recommendation came after extensive consultations with experts, and more importantly with young adults, particularly young women, as the decision directly affects them.”
The task force, established by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in June 2020, noticed from young adults that the marriage age for women should be 22-23 years. It also mentioned that sex education be formalised and included in school curricula.
The minimum age for the bride is 18 years old, and the groom is 21 years old, according to Section 5(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955. The Special Marriage Act of 1954 and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act of 2006 both set the minimum age of consent for marriage at 18 and 21 years old for men and women, respectively.
In his 2020 Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that his government will soon reconsider and determine the right age of marriage for women in India.
“Women’s marriage age was increased from 15 years to 18 years in 1978, by amending the erstwhile Sharda Act of 1929,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said during her 2020-21 Budget speech. As India develops, more opportunities for women to pursue higher education and careers emerge.There are imperatives of lowering MMR as well as improvement of nutrition levels. Entire issue about the age of a girl entering motherhood needs to be seen in this light.â€