The impact of raising the minimum marriageable age for women
As all of us have heard, the Union Cabinet decided to raise the legal age of marriage for women from 18 to 21 years on December 15, 2021. With this decision of the Union Cabinet, the marriageable age for both men and women stands equal at 21 years. The minimum age for marriage is set to prevent child marriages and abuse of minors. The Government is also determined on keeping 21 as the minimum age for marriage across all religions.
The Government of India wants to further push down the rate of child marriages after it decreased from 27% in 2015-16 to 23% in 2019-2020. Apart from reducing this rate, the government has given several other reasons like gender-neutrality, prevention of early pregnancies, reducing impact on Infant and Maternal Mortality Rate, empowerment of women who have been cut from education, etc. for increasing the marriageable age.
But, before we get into the negative impacts as described by critics that this law can have, we must understand how the government concluded amending the minimum age.
The committee set up by the Ministry of Women and Child Development concluded that the age for marriage of women must be raised to 21 years. This committee, headed by Jaya Jaitly, conducted surveys from 16 universities across the country and on the basis of feedback, recommended this change. It also said that the government has to increase access of schools and colleges for girls, include sex edcuation as subject in schools, etc. The committee also mentioned that unless the above changes don’t come into effect, the law will not be as effective as expected.
Now obviously, since our country is democratic, this law was not appreciated by a lot of people. Keeping aside the opposition parties whose job is to oppose the government, child and women rights activists, people, family planning experts, etc have not found this law to be any helpful to women. They suggest that the law would lead to even more illegal marriages in the country. Child marriages in India still exist and just increasing the marriageable age will not help women to prosper. The rise in educational rights and employment opportunities for women is actually what the government needs to focus on. The empowerment of women will only be successful when they are provided with the needed facilities that will help them to prosper.
As for me, the first time I heard this news I was happy that the government has started thinking about the wellbeing of women. But after reading several articles, it made me realise that just raising the age for marriage of women is not enough. Before raising the age, the government needs to focus on providing education, health facilities and safety for women. This will help women to earn money and make decisions for themselves making them independent beings.
FY BSc. Economics