Date : 16 Dec 2021
Legal age of marriage for womenTags :
Indian Polity and Governance-Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.
Why in News?
The Union Cabinet on December 15, 2021 decided to raise the legal age of marriage for women from 18 to 21 years.
- The government will be bringing the age of marriage for both men and women at par.
- An early age of marriage, and consequent early pregnancies, also have impacts on nutritional levels of mothers and their children, and their overall health and mental wellbeing.
- It also has an impact on the Infant Mortality Rate and Maternal Mortality Rate, and the empowerment of women who are cut off from access to education and livelihood after an early marriage.
Laws regarding Minimum age of marriage
- The law prescribes a minimum age of marriage to essentially outlaw child marriages and prevents the abuse of minors.
- 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.
- In Islam, the marriage of a minor who has attained puberty is considered valid.
- 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, respectively.
Jaya Jaitly Committee: In June 2020, the Ministry for Women and Child Development set up a task force, under Jaya Jaitly, to look into the correlation between the age of marriage with issues of women’s nutrition, the prevalence of anemia, IMR, MMR, and other social indices.
The Evolution of the Law
- The Indian Penal Code enacted in 1860 criminalized any sexual intercourse with a girl below the age of 10.
- Brahmo Marriage Act: It set the minimum age of 14 years for the marriage of girls and 18 years for boys.
- Age of Consent Bill, 1927: made marriages with a girl under 12 invalid. The law had faced opposition from conservative leaders of the nationalist movement such as Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Madan Mohan Malaviya who saw the British intervention as an attack on Hindu customs.
- Sarda Act or the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929: It set 16 and 18 years as the minimum age of marriage for women and men respectively. It was amended in 1978 to prescribe 18 and 21 years as the age of marriage for a woman and a man, respectively.