Move to empower women…Union Cabinet clears proposal to raise marriage age of women from 18 to 21

Union Cabinet recently passed a proposal to raise the legal age of marriage for women from 18 to 21 years. The proposal was approved by the Union Cabinet in New Delhi on December 15. The decision was taken after one year when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the plan in 2020. 

As per reports from several sources, the government will introduce an amendment to the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 and it is followed by the cabinet’s approval. Amendments to the Special Marriage Act and personal laws such as the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 will also be brought, said the government. Meanwhile, various religious organizations had come out in protest against its raising.

Currently, the age of marriage for a man is 21. By clearing the proposal, the central government aims to make the age of marriage equal for men and women. The proposal is based on recommendations by a task force set by the Centre to examine matters pertaining to the age of motherhood, imperatives of lowering MMR (Maternal Mortality Rate), improvement of nutritional levels and related issues.”

Jaya Jaitley, a former member of the Samata Party explained that the recommendations were made for the empowerment of women. The report suggests that there should be a proper awareness of women’s empowerment in schools and colleges and that sex education should be included in the school curriculum. He also added that the recent data released by NFHS 5 (National Family Health Survey) have already shown that the Total Fertility Rate is decreasing and the population is under control. The idea behind it (the recommendation) is the empowerment of women.

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 feedback from 16 universities has been taken and more than 15 NGOs are involved in reaching out to young people, especially those in rural and marginalized communities, said Jaya Jaitley. “If a girl is financially independent, her parents will think twice about marrying her sooner or later,” said Jaya Jaitley.

Although there were objections from certain quarters, the task force felt it was more important to be guided by the target group. The age of marriage for women was raised from 15 to 18 years in 1978 and it was amended by the then existing Sharda Act (1929).