Union Cabinet Clears Proposal for Raising Women's Minimum Marriage Age to 21: Reports

At present, the minimum age of marriage for women is 18. It is 21 for men.

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New Delhi: Reports have said that the Union Cabinet has cleared a proposal to raise the minimum age of marriage for women from 18 to 21.

NDTV and Indian Express have quoted unnamed sources as having confirmed the development.

At present, the minimum age of marriage for women is 18. It is 21 for men.

The proposal that the Cabinet has cleared is based on recommendations submitted to the NITI Aayog by the 10-member task force constituted for the purpose, headed by MP Jaya Jaitly and NITI Aayog member Vinod Paul.

The Union government formed this task force with the view to empowering girls and young women, increase their access to education and improve the infant mortality rate (IMR) and maternal mortality ratio (MMR), as The Wire had reported las year.

According to data released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Sample Registration System of the Registrar General of India, the country’s MMR has rapidly declined – to 113 in 2016-18 from 122 in 2015-17 and 130 in 2014-2016.

In his Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that this committee had been formed and that the minimum age of marriage in women will be raised from 18 to 21.

“This government is constantly concerned about the health of daughters and sisters. To save the daughters from malnutrition, it is necessary that they’re married at the right age,” Modi had said, according to NDTV.

Changes are now in the offing in the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, Special Marriage Act, and the Hindu Marriage Act, to bring this plan into action, according to reports.

Also read: Focus Should Be on Root Causes of Child Marriage, Not Increasing Marriage Age: Activists

In the aftermath of the prime minister’s speech last year, experts had said that if the root causes of child marriage are not addressed, then such a law will harm girls more.

“One girl child even told me that female foeticide will increase because the parents will be more burdened by girl children if the marriageable age is increased. If they’re allowed to vote at 18, why can’t they decide if they want to get married?” Kavita Ratna, director of advocacy at The Concerned for Working Children, a child rights non-profit, was quoted in a report.