The Union Cabinet Wednesday accorded in-principle approval to a proposal to increase the age of marriage of women from 18 to 21 years. The proposal clearance comes more than a year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared the plan in his address to the nation on the 74th Independence Day.
In India, men are legally allowed to get married at the age of 21. The proposed reform will equalise legal marriageable ages for both genders. The government, after receiving the Cabinet’s nod, is likely to make amendments to the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, the Special Marriage Act and personal legal instruments such as the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, The Indian Express reported citing sources.
The Cabinet gave the Wednesday’s approval on the basis of the recommendations received by Niti Ayog last December from a task force which was set up to examine “matters pertaining to the age of motherhood, imperatives of lowering MMR (Maternal Mortality Rate), improvement of nutritional levels and related issues”. The task force was led by Jaya Jaitly, the former president of the Samata Party.
Jailty, in an interview with The Indian Express, clarified that the task force’s reasoning behind the recommendation was not population control. She backed her assertion with the National Family Health Survey recent findings which show that the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is declining and the country’s population is under control. She stated the idea behind the recommendation is women’s empowerment.
“We have had feedback from 16 universities and engaged over 15 NGOs to reach out to young people, particularly in rural and marginalised communities, such as in particular districts in Rajasthan where child marriage is quite prevalent. Feedback was taken across religions, and from urban and rural areas, equally,” Jailty told The Indian Express.
The task force’s other recommendations included an elaborate public awareness campaign to encourage social acceptance of the decision, the introduction of sex education in the school curriculum, women’s training in polytechnic institutes, etc.