- Prime Minister Modi mentioned the proposal in his Independence Day speech last year.
- Right now, the legal marriage age for women is 18.
- The decision on Wednesday is based on recommendations submitted to Niti Aayog by the Centre’s task force, chaired by Jaya Jaitly, in December 2020.
The Union Cabinet approved a proposal on Wednesday to raise the legal marriage age for women in India from 18 to 21, the same as it is for males. This clearance comes in less than a year after PM Modi first announced the plan on India’s Independence Day in 2020. The idea is based on the recommendations of a task committee appointed by the Centre to look at concerns such as the age of motherhood, the implications of decreasing MMR (Maternal Mortality Rate), improving nutritional levels, and other connected issues.
The task force’s suggestion came “after lengthy talks with professionals, and more significantly with young adults, especially young women, since the decision impacts them directly,” according to Jaya Jaitly, a former member of the Samata Party.
According to Ms. Jaitly, the decision was made to empower women rather than regulate the population because statistics from the NFHS 5 (National Family Health Survey) already showed that the Total Fertility Rate is dropping and the population is under control.
Jaitly further stated that the task force received feedback from 16 universities and worked with over 15 non-governmental organisations to reach out to young people, particularly in rural and marginalised communities, such as districts in Rajasthan where child marriage is common. Feedback was solicited from people of all religions and from both urban and rural locations.
Despite opposition from certain places, the task force decided it was more necessary to be guided by the target group.
The task force, established by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in June 2020, also comprised Dr V K Paul of Niti Aayog and Secretaries of the WCD, Health, and Education Ministries, as well as the Legislative Department.
It has proposed a thorough public awareness campaign to foster societal acceptance of the decision, as well as access to schools and colleges for females, including transportation in the case of academic institutions in remote places.
The committee also suggested that sex education be formalised and included into the school curriculum. Women’s education at polytechnic colleges, skill and business training, and livelihood improvement have also been suggested as ways to ensure that a rise in marriageable age may be adopted.
The minimum age for the bride is 18 years old, while the groom is 21 years old, according to Section 5(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955. Both the Special Marriage Act of 1954 and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act of 2006 established the minimum age of consent for marriage at 18 years old for women and 21 years old for males.