Should the Legal Age of Marriage of the women be raised to 21?
Author: Tapasya Bhatia
Email ID: firstname.lastname@example.org
“A good parent prepares the child for the path, not the path for the child.”
According to the Indian laws in 1860, the Indian Penal Code criminalized sexual intercourse with a girl below the age of 10 years. Moreover, the age of Consent Bill 1927, made marriage invalid with a girl under the age of 12 years.
In the year 1929, the Child Marriage Restraint Act set the minimum age of men and women as 14 and 18 years respectively. This law is known as Sarda Act. In 1978, the Sarda Act was amended and the legal minimum age of marriage for women was increased to 18 years and for men to 21 years.
The proposition that is now on the table from the current government is to raise the age of women entering marriage to 21 years. The Prime Minister has mentioned this among his priorities for the year during his Independence Day speech.
Nirmala Sitharaman during her Budget Speech 2020-2021, announced to revise the legal age of marriage for women from 18 to 21 years. In February 2020, Sitharaman announced a task force that will present its recommendations over this 6 month time period.
Member of Committee
A Center committee is headed by former Samata Party president Jaya Jaitly and will have among members V K Paul, Member, Health, NITI Ayog.
The ten-member task force will have as member Secretaries Health, Women and Child Development, Law and, School Education. Three independent members are Najma Akhtar, Vasudha Kamath, and Dipti Shah.
Why did it become the need of the hour?
According to research and report, the age of marriage is the major to solve the particular issues are:
Maternal and child health
Improvement of nutrition levels
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Prone to sexual and reproductive health morbidities
Hindrance in pursuing higher education
UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) study, says that around 27% of the women in India are married before turning their 18th birthday. If the women’s age may shift from 18 to 21 it will act for betterment for women and prevent child marriage. The numbers are enormous, and our record in curbing marriages below age 18 years has been abysmal, even after 40 years of enactment of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act.
For Example, the proportion of women aged 20 years to 24 years who had been married when they were below the age of 18 years – the preferred and globally used indicator of child marriage - was 54% in 1992 – 93, 50% in 1998 – 99 and 47% in 2005-06. It fell impressively only in the last decade, between 2005-06 and 2015-16. Even so, this means roughly 1.5 crore young girls were married as children, in violation of the law.
Impact on Women life
As it is generally said by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that youth are the main resource of India. Increasing the age from 18 to 21 will provide a better chance for women to develop. It will be doing a great disservice to the development of healthy sexuality among youth in India.
Earlier women were not promoted for higher education but this will leads to a shift toward employment. It is rightly said that those who marry at ages 21 years and above are better off than those who marry younger. This is right even many studies have shown those who marry late have a higher or college education, skill opportunity, better socio understanding, better economic status.
For Example, leading gender specialist Mary E John’s analysis of National Family Health Survey data shows that while almost half (45%) of those belonging to the poorest households married in childhood, just one in ten (10%) of those belonging to the wealthiest households did so.
Since we all are aware of our typical Indian thoughts as soon as the girl touches 18 people start maintaining a pressure that even affects the mental health of the girls. A mother of a 17-year-old girl in Rajasthan put it like this, “I have just this one thought, that one should not marry a girl till she is standing on her own two feet, say at 25 years or even 26 years. She must approve of the boy and his family.
Yet vast inequalities persist in our social system, and many remain untouched by opportunities in education, health, and poverty alleviation. India is in many strategies for unreached and disadvantaged poverty. Such programs and policies are much more helpful for human rights than legislation and will lead a shift toward the graph of delays in marriages.