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Current Affairs

Raising legal age for marriage

Date: 17 December 2021 Tags: Bills & Laws

Issue

A decision has been taken by the Union cabinet to raise the legal age of marriage for women from 18 to 21 years. 

 

Background

The current age for women to get married is 18 years and 21 years for men. The new law will bring both ages at par.

 

Details

  • The minimum age for marriage was prescribed to remove child marriages and prevent the abuse of minors. Different religions have their own laws for marriageable age.

  • Under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, which governs marriage among Hindus, the minimum age for bride is 18 years and 21 years for groom.

  • Under the Islamic law, marriage of a girl is held valid if she has attained puberty. There is no bar on minimum age.

  • Minimum age has been prescribed as 18 years and 21 years under Special Marriage Act, 1954 and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. These will have to be amended if age bar is raised.

 

Reasons for government decision

  • The main reason has been stated as promoting gender neutrality. There are other reasons such as prevention of early pregnancies.

  • Early pregnancies will have impacts on nutritional levels of mothers and their children, and their overall health and mental wellbeing.

  • The Infant Mortality Rate and Maternal Mortality Rate will also be affected due to early marriage. This will also allow women access to higher education and employment.

 

The Jaya Jaitly committee

  • The committee was set up by the government to look into the relation between the age of marriage with issues of women’s nutrition, prevalence of anemia, IMR, MMR and other social indices.

  • The committee was also tasked to study the feasibility of raising the age of marriage and its implication on women and child health.

  • The committee took feedback from youth belonging to all religions, as well as from rural and urban areas equally.

 

Criticism

  • Many women rights activists say that such legislation would push a large portion of the population into illegal marriages.

  • Critics say that laws should not negatively impact marginalised communities, such as the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes. They can be termed criminals.