Raising the Age of Matrimony for Girls Is a Step That Needs Complete Implementation

Raising the Age of Matrimony for Girls Is a Step That Needs Complete Implementation


Females from all over the nation have argued for the necessity of raising the marriageable age of girls in India from the current 18 years to 21 years in a series of webinars and in-person meetings dubbed Lado Panchayat, organised by the Selfie With Daughter Foundation.

The first online Lado Panchayat was conducted on July 18, 2021, as a result of the Selfie With Daughter Foundation's initiative, an NGO that works on gender issues. The Panchayat was attended by 90 girls from Haryana, Punjab, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh. This was the first occasion that village girls had been brought together.

They want that the law governing girls' marriageable ages be changed. These sessions have as their goal the creation of a report that will be presented as a proposal to the Prime Minister's office and the Union Ministry of Women and Child Welfare. The research will concentrate on the numerous issues related to raising the legal age of marriage for girls to 21.

The meeting's organisers note that the majority of the girls in attendance were married at younger ages, which has had an effect on their schooling. According to a member of the NGO, there have been instances when parents have allegedly fabricated birth certificates for their daughters so that they would appear to be of legal marriageable age and be eligible for marriage. Participants have argued that there should be certain fundamental educational requirements that girls must meet in order to be eligible for marriage under the law.

An effort by the government to reduce maternal mortality and assure nutrition

In his Independence Day speech on August 15, 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that the government will think about raising the marriageable age for girls to 21 years. A task team was then established under the direction of former Samata Party leader Jaya Jaitly and NITI Aayog member V.K. Paul. The team has sent a report to the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) and the Prime Minister's Office.

The research recommends raising the legal age for girls to get married from 18 to 21, but it recommends doing so gradually to give states time to implement it fully and effectively.

Maternal mortality rates are mostly to blame for the re-examination of the marriageable age for females. The action aims to enhance women's nutrition levels and ensure fewer maternal mortality. According to the task force's recommendations, a woman should be 21 years old when she gives birth to her first child. Delaying marriage also implies putting a cap on the number of pregnancies and the age at which children are born.

In their paper, they also state that raising the age of marriage for girls will benefit families' financial and social well-being.

A positive move, but other issues need to be resolved

Many people have welcomed the decision to raise the age at which females can get married, while others have voiced opposition. The fact that the effort will affect and lower the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) while also boosting female nutrition is one of the main arguments put up by those who favour it.

Malnutrition, and maternal and infant mortality are all associated with early marriage and the early pregnancies it causes. Additionally, it is believed that raising the marriageable age will allow girls the chance to finish their education and pursue employment before getting hitched.

The promise of equality under the Constitution for both men and women is cited as a further argument in favour of the action. Assuming that women "mature earlier" is patriarchal and discriminatory. The ability to reproduce does not establish eligibility for marriage, and it is patriarchal and proprietary to view women only as bodies capable of reproducing.

On the other hand, other people contend that the ageing population will have little impact. Madhu Mehra, the co-founder of the National Coalition for Advocating for Adolescent Concerns and executive director of Partners for Law in Development India, speaks on the topic of the legal age of marriage for women in an interview with The Hindu.

Mehra emphasises that if the marriageable age is raised, girls won't have any control over their lives. The Dalit and Adivasi populations will be disproportionately impacted by raising the marriage age, according to an article in the Indian Express.

It emphasises that girls between the ages of 14 and 18 are not covered by the Right to Education Act if the right to free and compulsory education is not raised to the age of 18. (RTE). According to data, rural women typically marry earlier than urban women, and women's socioeconomic status has an effect on how long marriages last. Higher caste/class and educated women can afford to wait till later in life to get married.

The proposed revision to the law regarding the marriageable age should therefore take into account these castes- and gender-based disparities and how they affect females. While maternal mortality and health issues must be addressed, statistics also show that women are less likely to marry young when they have greater education levels.

Therefore, it is advised that the Right to Education Act be changed to ensure that girls from all socioeconomic groups benefit from the increased marriageable age.

Education, public awareness, and full implementation

For girls, getting an education empowers them to avoid getting married young. Even though free education is available thanks to the RTE, parents of lower-income households frequently do not see a financial gain from sending their daughters to school. Most families struggle financially to pay for post-secondary education.

There have reportedly been more child weddings recently as a result of the Covid-19 lockdowns. In order to combat this during the lockdown, it has become more challenging for females to access the necessary legal and other support, according to UNICEF (United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund).

Girls are married off young to lessen financial obligations due to the loss of work caused by the pandemic, bad economic conditions for low-income families, and other factors. There have been calls for making the appropriate policy changes so that females can continue their education both online and offline because many people cannot afford the devices needed for online learning.

Along with awareness campaigns to educate families about the health hazards and other negative impacts of early marriage and the advantages of delayed marriage, assistance for households to cope with poverty should also be provided.

Therefore, while we applaud the government's decision to rethink the minimum age at which girls can get married, it is also vital that we address financial and caste-based inequality, education, and social awareness to fully ensure that the policy accomplishes its intended purposes.

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