From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Jaya Jaitly Committee
Mains level : Issues with marriage age
The proposal to raise the minimum age of marriage for women from 18 to 21 was cleared by the Union Cabinet based on the recommendations of a task force headed by Jaya Jaitley.
Minimum Age for Marriage in India
- Personal laws of various religions that deal with marriage have their own standards, often reflecting custom.
- 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.
- Now, the govt will have to amend the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, the Special Marriage Act and personal laws such as the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
Reasons behind the decision
- Gender-neutrality: With this decision, the government will be bringing the age of marriage for both men and women at par.
- Motherhood complexities: 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.
- Mother and Child Mortality: It also has an impact on Infant Mortality Rate and Maternal Mortality Rate.
- Women empowerment: The decision would empower women who are cut off from access to education and livelihood due to an early marriage.
- Protection from abuse: This will essentially outlaw premature girls marriages and prevent the abuse of minors.
What is the Jaya Jaitly Committee?
- In June 2020, the Ministry of WCD set up a task force to look into the correlation between the age of marriage with issues of women’s nutrition, prevalence of anemia, IMR, MMR and other social indices.
- The committee was to look at the feasibility of increasing the age of marriage and its implication on women and child health, as well as how to increase access to education for women.
- The committee has recommended the age of marriage be increased to 21 years, on the basis of feedback they received from young adults from 16 universities across the country.
- The committee also asked the government to look into increasing access to schools and colleges for girls, including their transportation to these institutes from far-flung areas.
- Skill and business training has also been recommended, as has sex education in schools.
- The committee said these deliveries must come first, as, unless they are implemented and women are empowered, the law will not be as effective.
Criticism of the move
- Illegal marriages: Such legislation would push a large portion of the population into illegal marriages leading to non-institutional births.
- Ineffectiveness of existing laws: Decrease in child marriages has not been because of the existing law but because of an increase in girls’ education and employment opportunities.
- Unnecessary coercion: The law would end up being coercive, and in particular negatively impact marginalized communities, such as the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes, making them law-breakers.