Public Health Consultant, Bengaluru and Visiting Professor - MPH, KSRDPRU, Gadag, India
*Corresponding Author: K Suresh, Public Health Consultant, Bengaluru and Visiting Professor - MPH, KSRDPRU, Gadag, India.
Received: January 06, 2022; Published: January 31, 2022
The Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which was introduced in Lok Sabha on 21 December 2021, seeks to increase the minimum age of marriage of females to 21 years from the current 18 years, to bring parity in the age of marriage for both men and women in the country. Marriage is an instrument of social control, but often become a route of escape from conservative shackles for many women in rural India. No girl below the age of 18 can be considered to have given consent to sex, according to the existing law. Raising the age of marriage and age of consent have both been considered as progressive measures to favour women, for historical reasons in India. The law prescribes a minimum age of marriage to essentially outlaw child marriages and prevent the abuse of minors. Personal laws of various religions have their own standards, often reflecting respective customs. For Hindus, The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 sets 18 years as the minimum age for the bride and 21 years as the minimum age for the groom. In Islam, the marriage of any girl who has attained puberty is considered valid. The Special Marriage Act, 1954 and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 also prescribe 18 and 21 years as the minimum age of consent for marriage for women and men, respectively. According to the draft Bill, the proposed law will apply to all communities and once enacted, will supersede existing marriage and personal laws. India would, however, be amongst the few countries globally where the legal age of marriage for women would be 21. In neighbouring China, it is 20, while in countries like the UK and US, it is 18 but with exceptions and variations. For the new era of avoiding gender discrimination, in all social and economic participation the laws are to be amended and implemented. The current government has decided to propose an increase in the age for marriage for girls from 18 to 21 as for boys. The reasons put forth include i) gender-neutrality, ii) poor nutritional levels of mothers and their children following early marriages, iii) their overall health and mental wellbeing of women and children iv) other population health reasons include high Infant Mortality Rate and Maternal Mortality Rate v) Socio-economic reasons of empowerment of women who are denied access to education and livelihood after an early marriage. People resisting this amendment quote autonomy as the concerns of implementing the law. Their plea is if women are considered adults at 18 for voting, why not for marriage decisions as well?” Some advocate achieving gender parity by making 18 the age for marriage for all genders. For them the government move is an attempt to replace all religious civil codes by a uniform civil code. However, the rationality in increasing the marriage age for women without spelling out plans to improve health and education be addressed which might be detailed once the law is passed. Materials and Methods: The draft bill, committee recommendations, Various media coverage and debates across the country on the issue.
Keywords : Age at Marriage for Women; Existing Divergent Marriage Laws; Uniform Civil Codes; Equity and Parity; Gender Discrimination; NFHS 5 and 4
Citation: K Suresh. “Raising Legal Age of Marriage for Women: The Law, The Reasons and The Criticism". Acta Scientific Women's Health 4.2 (2022): 46-51.
Copyright: © 2022 K Suresh. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.