On Wednesday, the Union Cabinet passed the proposal to raise the legal age of women to get married from 18 to 21 in India. Men can marry at the age of 21 legally in India. The proposal is passed to amend the age from 18 to 21, as same as the men’s legal age to get married. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced this proposal more than a year back in the speech during his Independence Day address of 2020.
The recommendations were submitted to The NITI Aayog in December 2020, headed by Jaya Jaitly of Centre’s Task Force which was formed to “matters about the age of motherhood, imperatives of lowering MMR (Maternal Mortality Rate), improvement of nutritional levels and related issues”. Many senior government authorities such as VK Paul, officials of the Health Ministry, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Law Ministry were a part of this special task to look upon the proposal. This task force was formed last year in June.
Jaya Jaitly, a former president of the Samanta Party, asserted, “I want to make clear that our reasoning behind the recommendation was never one of population control.” She also mentioned that the task force recommendation has come after extensive consultations with the experts and especially the young woman as the decision is going to have a direct impact on them
She cited that the special task force collected feedback from 16 universities and over 15 NGOs. They reached out to the people, particularly the young and marginalized, in districts in Rajasthan where Child Marriage like social evils still exists. She mentioned that feedback was taken from people of all religions and communities.
According to the stats from National Family Health Survey, India attained a total fertility rate of 2.0, below the replacement level of the Total fertility rate at 2.1 for the very first time. This data indicates that the population explosion in the coming year is dubious.
Amendments can also be seen in the Special Marriage Act and the Prohibition of Child Marriage. According to section three of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 the minimum age of a girl to get married is 18 and for a guy, it is 21. The age was the same for a woman to be 18 and a man to be 21 to get married as per the special marriage act and prohibition of the child marriage act.
Union Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman during her Budget Speech for 2020-21 referring to the establishment of the special task force said “Women’s age of marriage was increased from 15 years to 18 years in 1978, by amending the erstwhile Sharda Act of 1929. As India progresses further, opportunities open up for women to pursue higher education and careers. There are imperatives of lowering MMR as well as improvement of nutrition levels. The entire issue about the age of a girl entering motherhood needs to be seen in this light.”
Now it is to be seen if the amendments and the mere proposals are going to eradicate the deeply rooted stigmas and stereotypes associated with women and their marriages.
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