Proposal to increase the age of marriage from 18 years to 21 years
Recently, the cabinet has passed a resolution to increase the age of marriage for women from 18 years to 21 years.
The proposal is based on recommendations submitted to NITI Aayog by the Centre’s task force headed by Jaya Jaitley.
This task force was constituted to examine matters relating to the age of motherhood, the imperative to reduce the Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR), improving nutritional status and related issues.
Arguments in favor of increasing the legal age for marriage:
- Early marriage deprives girls of the highest attainable standards of general, sexual and reproductive health.
- Maternal mortality rate, infant mortality rate and nutritional level of children depend on the age of the mother.
- Early marriage means fewer women in the labor force.
Arguments in opposition:
- Preference for having a son and extreme poverty can lead to unintended consequences such as increased prevalence of female feticide and sex-selective abortion.
- A large part of the population may be forced into illegal marriages. This would mean that until the age of 21, girls would have little right in their private affairs.
Age of Consent Act, 1891: The age of consent for sexual intercourse was raised from 10 years to 12 years, without mentioning the age of marriage.
Prohibition of Child Marriage Act of 1929 (popularly known as Sharda Act): The minimum age of marriage was fixed at 14 years for girls and 18 years for boys.
Child Marriage Prohibition Act in 2006: The age limit for girls and boys was revised to 18 years and 21 years respectively.
Source – PIB