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Change in legal age of marriage for women in India – 18 to 21 Years

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The Union Cabinet on December 15, 2021, decided to raise the legal age for women to marry from 18 to 21 years. The legal age for both i.e., men and women marriage is 21 years. With this decision, the government will be measuring the age of marriage between men and women.

Minimum Age of Marriage – Reason

The law sets the minimum age for marriage to legalize child marriage and prevent child abuse.

The personal rules of various religions regarding marriage have their own rules, which often reflect the culture.

For Hindus, the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 sets 18 years as the bride’s minimum age and 21 years for the groom’s age. In Islam, the marriage of a newborn child is considered legal.

The Special Marriage Act, 1954 and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 also set 18 and 21 years as the minimum age for marrying women and men, respectively.

In the new era of marriage, these laws are expected to be amended.

Re-Examining the Age by Government

The Narendra Modi government has decided to re-evaluate the age of marriage for women for a number of reasons, including gender neutrality.

The age of marriage, as well as the resulting teenage pregnancy, also affects the nutritional status of mothers and their babies, as well as their overall health and mental health.

It also has an impact on child mortality and maternal mortality rates, as well as the upliftment of women who are deprived of access to education and livelihoods after training.

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The recently released National Family Health Survey (NFHS) found that child marriage declined slightly from 27 per cent in 2015-16 to 23 per cent in 2019-20 in the country, but the government has been trying to reduce this.

Jaya Jaitly Committee

In June 2020, the Department of Women and Child Development established a team to look at the relationship between marriage age and issues of female nutrition, anaemia, IMR, MMR and other social indicators.

The committee, led by former Samata Party president Jaya Jaitly, consisted of NITI Aayog (health) members Dr V K Paul and secretaries of many religions.

They should look at how it is possible to increase the age of marriage and its impact on women’s and child health, and how to increase access to education for women.

The committee was also required to determine when the government would be able to implement the policy, as well as amendments to existing laws to make this possible.

Recommendation of Jaya Jaitly Committee

The committee recommended that the age of marriage be increased to 21 years, based on the feedback received from young adults from 16 universities across the country.

More than 15 NGOs are also collaborating to reach young adults in remote areas and marginalized communities.

Committee members said the response was taken from young people of all faiths, as well as those in rural and urban areas equally.

The committee also called on the government to look into increasing access to girls’ schools and colleges, including the transportation to these centres is from remote areas.

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Skills and business training have also been recommended, as has been done in sex education in schools.

The committee said these needs must come first, as, unless they are implemented and developed by women, the law will not succeed.

The committee also recommended a comprehensive awareness campaign on the growing age of marriage and encouraged the adoption of new laws in the community, which they said would be more effective than enforcement measures.https://www.livemint.com/news/india/increasing-legal-age-of-marriage-to-21-is-it-a-boon-or-a-bane-for-indian-women-international-women-s-day-11646540444993.html#:~:text=Now%2C%20to%20bring%20women%20on,help%20in%20building%20their%20careers.

Criticism by Activists

Children’s and women’s rights activists, as well as statistics and family planning experts, have been opposed to increasing the age of marriage on the grounds that such a law would force a large part of the population into illegal marriages.

They argue that although the legal age of marriage for women is kept at 18, child marriage continues in India and the decline of such marriages is not due to existing law but to an increase in girls’ education and employment opportunities.

They said the law would eventually be stubborn, and especially have a negative impact on neglected communities, such as Scheduled Caste and organized races, making them criminals.https://thelegallock.com/marriage-a-license-to-rape/

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