THE LEGAL AGE OF MARRIAGE HAS BEEN RAISED FROM 18 TO 21 YEARS.
On Wednesday, India's Union Cabinet approved a proposal to raise the legal age of marriage for girls from 18 to 21 years old. Though the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi, made this declaration on Independence Day last year, the plan was passed in December 2021, based on recommendations presented to Niti Aayog by a task force led by Mrs. Jaya Jaitly. The government will change other legislation, such as the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006, the Special Marriage Act 1954, and other personal laws, such as the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, Muslim Marriage Act 1955, and so on, after the corresponding law is passed.
Although there were many acts passed earlier in this regard, such as the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006, the Special Marriage Act 1954, and so on, which were amended from time to time concerning the age of marriage for girls, i.e. 1979, The Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 was amended to raise the legal marriage age for girls from 15 to 18 years and for boys from 18 to 21 years. However, the plan endorsed by India's Union Cabinet has the potential to be a game-changer.
From the Government’s objective to the public’s reactions:
According to Mrs. Jaya Jaitly in an interview with The Indian Express, the main goal of the center's task force head's advice in this regard is to encourage women's empowerment. The government's utmost goal is to establish an atmosphere where men and women have equal possibilities, as well as to ensure that a woman's pregnancy age should be at least 21. According to reports, the decision was made after doing comprehensive research and gathering sufficient feedback from a variety of young boys and girls from various universities. However, People's reactions were a mix of emotions. Some saw it as a positive move toward gender equality or women's empowerment, while others saw it as superfluous given the presence of other such acts.
Whereas other political parties find the proposal bootless. While some say that amending personal laws such as the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 and the Muslim Marriage Act 1955 is unreasonable, others believe it's a move by the government to get rid of personal laws and take control of the marriage aspect.
Child marriage statistics:
In India, child marriage has always been one of the country's most pressing worries. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, there was an almost 50 percent increase in the number of incidents of child marriage in 2020, with Tamil Nadu, Assam, West Bengal, and other states reporting the most. Land disputes, traditional traditions, pressure from relatives or society, security concerns, and other factors contribute to child marriage. Although there are other actions in this regard, the Union Cabinet's plan may prove to be yet another step toward raising public awareness about child marriage.
Although the idea has drawn some criticism, it's been supported by numerous communities, authorities, and, most importantly, Indian individuals. On the one hand, some people see this proposal as an opportunity for girls to continue their education, become more financially independent, mature enough to make decisions about pregnancy, and so on, while others see it as an attempt to crush their religious sentiments, deprive them of fundamental rights, gain control, and so forth. But, whatever the conclusions, it's encouraging to see the government making efforts in this direction, even if more drastic measures are needed to address the core causes of the problem.