Several Child rights groups have opposed the union government’s decision to raise the marriage age of women.
Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2021:
- The Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021 seeks to increase the minimum age of marriage for females to 21 years.
- Under the 2006 Act, a person married below the minimum legal age (18 years) may apply for dissolution within two years of reaching majority (before 20 years of age).
- The 2021 Bill is going to increase this to five years (23 years of age).
Child Marriage is defined as a marriage of a girl or boy before the age of minimum legal age (18 years).
The reason behind Child Marriage
- It is a widely practised social custom.
- Poverty and Illiteracy of a Child’s parents.
- Social and Economic Condition of the family including the Cultural values of the family and the Surrounding Society.
- Lack of awareness about the harmful effects Lack of easy access to Schooling.
- Political Patronage: Due to Social acceptance politicians find it difficult to oppose the practice of child marriage as it may mean losing votes and Support.
- Child marriage is also widely reported to be used to traffic girls from poor and tribal families for either Sex trade or as cheap labour.
Points in support of the bill:
Increasing the minimum age of marriage for females to 21 years, ensures gender equality, as the legal marriage age for males is already 21 years, different ages of marriage promote the Stereotype that wives must be younger than their husbands.
Increasing the age of marriage will help in achieving various goals including improvement of maternal and infant mortality rates (IMR and MMR), nutrition levels, the sex ratio at birth (SRB), female labour force participation, and gender equality, and will lead to the empowerment of women.
About a quarter of 20-24-year-old women are married before the age of 18 years, despite that being the minimum age of marriage since 1978.
The limited success of the current law raises the question of whether an increase in minimum age would have any significant impact on reducing the incidence of child marriage
Increasing the legal age for marriage for women will increase the number of marriages performed underage and render young adults without legal protection.
- The practise of child marriages is largely due to the overall social customs, tradition, illiteracy, poverty, low status of women in society, and lack of awareness. These issues cannot be tackled by legislative interventions alone.
- There is a need for improved access to education, skill training and employment opportunities, safety for women and strengthening maternal health services to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates.
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