Government set to revise women’s legal age for marriage

Government set to revise women’s legal age for marriage

Photo for representational purpose only.

Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 6

 India is all set to revise the legal age for marriage for women with the government forming a high-level committee on Saturday to go into the matter and submit recommendations by July 31.

The taskforce will be headed by former Samata Party President Jaya Jaitly and will have among members VK Paul, Member, Health, NITI Ayog.

The government has notified the taskforce which will examine the correlation of age of marriage and motherhood with implications on the health of mothers and infants, impact of the age of marriage on infant mortality rate, maternal mortality rate, total fertility rate, sex ratio at birth and child sex ratio.

The very first term of reference of the taskforce relates to revisiting the legal age of marriage for Indian women, with sources saying a debate is under way for parity between legal marriageable ages for men and women in India. While the legal age of marriage for women is 18 years, for men it is 21 years.

The health argument behind raising the age of marriage among women is that child bearing at lower ages leads to complications thereby increasing infant and maternal mortality. 

The fertility argument behind the move is—higher age of marriage means lesser number of reproductive years for women. 

The taskforce has been asked to also suggest legislative amendments to support its recommendations besides laying down timelines by when the recommendations must be implemented.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had, during the Budget Speech 2020-21, announced, “Women’s age of marriage was increased from 15 years 18 eighteen years in 1978 by amending erstwhile Sharda Act of 1929. As India progresses further, opportunities open up for women to pursue higher education and careers. There are imperatives of lowering MMR as well as improvement of nutrition levels. Entire issue about the age of a girl entering motherhood needs to be seen in this light. I propose to appoint a task force that will present its recommendations in six months’ time.”

The ten-member taskforce will have as members Secretaries Health, Women and Child Development, Law and School Education. Three independent members are Najma Akhtar (New Delhi); Vasudha Kamath (Maharashtra); and Dipti Shah (Gujarat).

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