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Union Cabinet gives nod to raise Women’s Marriage Age to 21 from 18 years

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Union Cabinet gives nod to raise women’s marriage age to 21The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister (PM) of India, Narendra Modi has given its nod for proposal to bring uniformity in the marriageable age of men and women, thereby, increasing the legal age of marriage of women from 18 to 21 years.

  • In this regard, a Bill will be introduced to amend the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA), 2006, Special Marriage Act, 1954 and personal laws such as the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 in the ongoing winter session of Parliament (November 29- December 23, 2021).
  • The legal age to get married for men is 21.
  • This decision will not only boost gender equity and gender empowerment but also enable girls to complete their college studies and start earning.

Current Scenario:

i.Section 5(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 sets 18 years as the minimum age for the bride and 21 for the groom. 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.

ii.Women’s age of marriage was increased from 15 years to 18 years in 1978, by amending the erstwhile Sharda Act of 1929.

Key Points:

i.The proposals in the Bill have been made based on the recommendations submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in December 2020 by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MoWCD) constituted 10-member task force, headed by Jaya Jaitly, Samata Party chief.

  • Formed in June 2020, it examined matters pertaining to MMR (Maternal Mortality Rate), Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), Total Fertility Rate (TFR), Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB), Child Sex Ratio (CSR), improvement of nutritional levels and related issues.
  • It was also tasked to suggest measures for promoting higher education among women.
  • The report has not been made public yet.

ii.The recommendations by the task force have been made after extensive consultations with experts, young adults, especially young women.

iii.It should be noted that this move is aimed at empowering women and not controlling the population.

  • As per the data released by NFHS 5 (National Family Health Survey) the TFR is decreasing and the population is under control.
  • The data also revealed that in 2019-2021, 23.3% of women in the age of 20 to 24 were married before the age of 18, which is an improvement from 26.8% in 2015-2016.

Other members of Task force:

Paediatrician Dr Vinod Kumar Paul of Niti Aayog along with Secretaries of the MoWCD and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare(MoHFW); Secretary of the Legislative Department, Ministry of Law and Justice; Secretary of the Department of Higher Education and Secretary of the Department of School Education & Literacy, Ministry of Education(MoE) and academicians Najma Akhtar, Vasudha Kamat and Dipti Shah.

key Recommendations by Task Force to the Central Government:

i.Creation of comprehensive public awareness so that all societies fully adopt this decision.

ii.Formalization of  sex education and to be introduced in the school curriculum.

iii.Training of women in polytechnic institutes, skills and business training, and livelihood enhancement.

Recent Related News:

MoWCD celebrated Poshan Maah across India throughout the month of September under the Poshan Abhiyan. The Poshan Maah 2021 will be observed as a part of the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav.

About Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD):

Union Minister– Smriti Zubin Irani(Constituency- Amethi, Uttar Pradesh)
Minister of State (MoS)– Dr. Munjpara Mahendrabhai (Constituency- Surendranagar, Gujarat)