More than a year after PM Modi announced the plan to raise the age of women for marriage from 18 to 21 during Independence Day 2020, the Union Cabinet on Wednesday passed a proposal to raise the legal age for women for marriage from 18 to 21 years – the same as men.
According to the latest reports by The Indian Express that after the Cabinet’s approval, the Government will introduce an amendment to the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 and subsequent amendments will be bought to the Special Marriage Act and personal laws like the Hindu Marriage Act 1955.
This clearance was passed based on the suggestions submitted by the Niti Aayog in December 2020 by the Centre’s Task Force (headed by Jaya Jaitly). The suggestions included ‘addressing the age of motherhood, alternatives to reduce MMR (Maternal Mortality Rate) and improve nutritional levels and related issues.’
Jaya Jaitly said to The Indian Express that their suggestions and recommendations were never based on population control. She mentioned the latest data released by NFHS 5 (National Family Health Survey) that depicts that the total fertility rate is decreasing and the population is under control. This recommendation is for empowering women, she added.
According to the latest data released from NFHS 5, India’s total fertility rate was 2.0 for the first time. A TFR of 2.0 indicates that a population explosion in the future is unlikely. The data also reported that child marriage has come down from 27% in 2015-16 to 23% in 2019-21.
Jaitly who is the former president of the Samata Party said that this suggestion came after extensive research and consultation with experts and young women. They generated feedback from 16 universities that are engaged with over 15 NGOs to reach out to young people and get their feedback. The NGOs particularly reached out to the marginalized communities in districts of Rajasthan and other states where child marriage is still prevalent. She added that the feedback was taken across different religions and urban, rural areas equally.
According to the feedback they received, the young adults think that the age of marriage should be 22-23 years. The task force was established in 2020 by the Ministry of Women and Child Development. Along with the recommendation, the task force has also suggested launching a comprehensive public awareness campaign for people to socially accept this decision.
Other than this recommendation, they have also asked to provide transportation to young women who don’t have access to educational institutes like schools and universities and formalize sex education to be introduced in the school curriculum.
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