From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Mains level : Paper 2-Increasing the age of marriage for girls and implications
The article examines the issue of the age of marriage of girls and its relation with their education level and economic status.
Trends in early marriage
- The National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) data 2015-16 points to certain trends in early marriages:
- That rural women are likely to marry earlier than their urban counterparts.
- The higher up a woman is on the wealth quintile, the later she marries.
- Most importantly, it establishes a direct causal link between education levels and delayed age of marriage.
- Women with 12 years or more of schooling are most likely to marry later.
- Only 8 per cent rural girls who drop out in the age group 6 to 17 years cite marriage as the reason.
Impact on STs and SCs
- According to the wealth quintile data, the poorest households are concentrated in rural India.
- The lowest quintile, which is most likely to marry off their girls early out of socio-economic necessities, have 45 per cent of the Scheduled Tribe (ST) and 25.9 per cent Scheduled castes.
- The NFHS-4 data on women aged 15-49 by number of years of schooling completed shows that 42 per cent ST women and 33 per cent SC women have received no schooling.
- Marriages in India are governed by various personal laws which set varying minimum ages for girls as also the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA), 2006, where it is 18 years for girls and 21 for boys.
- This is compounded by The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, that increased the age of consent, from 16 years to 18 years.
- Several studies have shown how this has criminalised self-arranged adolescent marriages as parents often misuse it to punish couples marrying without their approval, especially in cases of inter-caste marriages.
- The National Human Rights Commission showed how higher education levels lead to a lower likelihood of women being married early and recommended that the Right to Education Act, 2009, be amended to make it applicable up to the age of 18 years.
- Noting the law’s patriarchal underpinnings, the 18th Law Commission report (2008) asked for uniformity in the age of marriage at 18 years for both men and women and lowering the age of consent to 16 years. Government could act on such a recommendation.
Consider the question “What are the advantages of increasing the minimum age of marriage for girls. Also, examine the issues with the move.
The median age at first marriage for both men and women in India has registered a significant decadal improvement with more people now marrying later than ever before. Any attempt to leapfrog through quick-fix and ill-conceived punitive measures will only considerably reverse these gains.