On 15 December 2021 passed a proposal to raise the legal minimum age of marriage for women from 18 to 21 years, the same legal age as for men.
The Government is planning to introduce an amendment to the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, and is thus planning to bring amendments to the Special Marriage Act and personal laws such as the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
Why Is There a Minimum Age of Marriage?
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.
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. For the new generation of marriage to be implemented, these laws are expected to be amended.
Why has the Government decided to re-examine the age of marriage?
The Modi government decided to re-examine the age of marriage for women for many reasons, including gender-neutrality. The early period of marriage and consequent early pregnancies also impact the nutritional levels of mothers and their children and their overall health and mental well-being.
What Does Jaya Jaitly Have to Say?
In an interview, Jaya Jaitly, former Samata Party president, said that she wants to clarify that the county’s reasoning behind the recommendation was never one of population control.
She also said that according to the National Family Health Survey data, the total fertility rate is decreasing, and the population is under control. The idea behind this recommendation is the empowerment of women.
National Family Health Survey
According to data from NFHS 5, India attained a Total Fertility Rate of 2.0 for the first time, below the replacement level of TFR at 2.1, indicating that a population explosion in the coming years is unlikely. The data also revealed that child marriage had decreased marginally from 27% in 2015-16 to 23% in 2019-21.