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Why proposal to review marriage age for women has split Modi govt

PM Narendra Modi had announced in his Independence Day address that the govt is looking to review the legal marriage age for women.

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in his Independence Day address that the government is reconsidering the legal marriage age for women, which currently stands at 18, but the proposal is said to have created divisions within the administration.

According to sources in the government, the proposal to review the age of marriage stems from a task-force set up in June by the Union Ministry for Women and Child Development to examine issues such as age of motherhood among girls, and the correlation between age of marriage and Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR), Total Fertility Rate (TFR), Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) and Child Sex Ratio (CSR), etc. 

While MMR is a key indicator of maternal health in a country, TFR, SRB and CSR serve as yardsticks to make assessments about population and gender balance.

The proposed review, however, has been opposed by the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, ThePrint has learnt.

Supporters of the review say it may help keep the population in check and prevent women from being forced into early motherhood and its multiple complications, while opponents fear it will spell chaos. 

Critics of the idea cite the example of women who become sexually active at 18, and say any increase in the age of marriage may push more of them out of the formal reproductive healthcare framework, given the stigma sex still courts in India.  

It may also lead to an increase in the number of child marriage cases, they say, since the proposal also seeks to bring women aged 18-21 years into the bracket.

ThePrint reached health ministry spokesperson Manisha Verma for a comment via text message and call, but there was no reply until the time of publishing this report.


Also Read: Modi says govt reviewing marriage age for women, promises equal job opportunities for them


‘Will create confusion’

Until last year, the government was veering towards reducing the age of marriage for men to 18 from the current threshold of 21, in order to bring parity between men and women. 

However, sources said, it was subsequently decided that it would be better instead to increase the legal marriage age for women from 18 to 21, since that would also serve the purpose of bringing down population levels in the country — an issue that Modi touched upon in his 2019 Independence Day address. 

“It was thought that reducing the marriage age for men would affect the population levels adversely, and, in keeping with rising education levels among women, the government is now exploring the idea of increasing the age level for women from 18 to 21,” an official said on condition of anonymity. 

However, the official added, the idea is “being met with apprehension for several reasons within the health ministry”. 

“One, girls do become sexually active before 21…If the government increases the age of marriage, several of them will not avail the formal healthcare system for their reproductive or sexual rights.

“Two, the cases of child marriage could go up since the legal age for marriage will increase from 18 to 21,” the official said. 

A second official said increasing the age would create “deeper discrepancy” in the law, which declares child marriage illegal but doesn’t consider such a union void unless the partners involved challenge it.

“Right now, child marriages are voidable and not void by default…” the official added. “But the Supreme Court, in 2017, had said that sex with a minor wife is rape — so, we are in a situation, where marriage with a girl of less than 18 years is not illegal, but sex with her is,” the official added. 

“If you now increase the marriage age to 21, then it would lead to more confusion about the status of girls and women under 21 who are married.” 

To iron out these confusions, the government is said to be exploring a proposal to make child marriages void by default.


Also Read: BJP-ruled constituencies fare worst on all maternal health indicators, study shows


 

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8 COMMENTS

  1. “An extremely dangerous proposition for the socio-political construct in India!

    This will create great strife socially among female offspring and conservative parents.

    It might also scare away a large number of young people travelling to India from rest of the world for educational and tourism purposes due the inherent dangerous situations such an enactment May land them into.

    It is bound to increase and expand the already burdensome police corruption and political string-pulling!

    It will lead to great oppression of young women and men that are more sociopolitically enlightened, seek to break inhuman caste and religious shackles and exercise their own consensual human rights to choose their partner in life leading or not leading to a marriage.

    It is also likely to be held as unconstitutional as every person becomes a major on attaining the age of 18 years, can vote and make their own decisions and destiny in life and the world.

    As it is India has undergone and still undergoes great social and cultural division leading to enormous strife, suicides, killing, rape, beheading, live burning, maiming like cutting off hands and legs, implication in false cases of kidnapping and rapes, social boycott, khap panchayats, stripping, lashing, naked parading etc and a host of other innovative indescribable social cruelties.

    It might be weaponised in the Hands of the social, political and financial adversaries.

    It might become a new weapon and means for black mail and ransom and fraud.

    A new breed of targeted internet scamsters may emerge.

    All people of all social, political and financial strata could become victims.

    It could become one more factor for emigration of talent and achievement that can not or would not like to live in such suffocating social construct for themselves or their offspring.

    It will be in essence contrary to the principles of universal declaration of human rights of the United Nations organisation to which India is a signatory.

    India is suffering and encountering enormous social, political, cultural, economic and even territorial problems.

    Such problems are a great burden on the polity and social fabric of the nation as well as the constitutional institutions of the nation.

    It will be eminently wise not to open such an unwanted, unnecessary, undesirable, unsavoury and culturally and politically abhorrent Pandora’s Box at this critical stage of our national development in the current dangerous strife torn National and international situation.

    Let’s not affect so adversely and so severely the valuable, cherished and loved lives of our own younger generations.

    Those who believe in God of any kind will have to answer their action on earth, in heaven and Hell.

    Those who don’t will still have to answer their own conscience every day on earth every time a young soul is screaming with pain and cruelty of such an enormous inhuman enactment.”

    Asato ma sadgamaya
    Tamaso ma jyotirgamaya
    Mrtyorma amrtam gamaya
    OoOm Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih
    -Taken from Brhadaranyaka Upanishad — I.III.28.

    Lead, me from LIE to TRUTH
    Lead, me from DARKNESS to LIGHT
    Lead, me from DEATH to IMMORTALTIY!

    Let there be Peace(in Body), peace(in speech) peace(in mind)

  2. Nhi honi chaiye age 21 aj kal 16 saal ki ladkiya ghr se bhag jati hai socho 21 ki kar doge kya haal hoga logo ka

    • Sir ho jani chahiye jine ladkiyo ko age bdna hota h apna future bnna hota h onki 17-18 me sadi krke onke spne tod diye jate h or sir asa village me jyada hota h hmare ldkiyu ki sadi kr di jati h na hm pd pati h na hm kuch kr pati or ladkiya apni pdayi ke liye bag jaye to one bagodi khke mar diya jata h sir plz ap otni to age bdavu ki hm pro pe khde ho jaye jo hm on ladkiyo ke liye to lade jo aj daldal me fasi huyi h sir mera spna IPS ka hh pr 21 agg hogi tb tk hmari sadi kr dege sir jb apne ni smjte betiyo ko to kse sasural vale smjege ap plz age bdavu sir jay hind jay Bharat.

  3. Why do you all call your fake flooded journalism “quality jounalism” ThePrint is a BLOT on the name of journalism. If you can call “BIHARI FAMILY TOXIC.” There ends the matter. Worst articles to read will be served by ThePrint

  4. The Print, has only been spitting venom on ALL the efforts of the current Govt and doing nothing else. And you want the people to support you for this?

    Always misreporting, straining the Govt machinery to issue correction, so that the public at large are not carried away by your offences….WHY ARE YOU BEING SELECTIVE and damaging to the country like this? Do you get paid for harming India and the current government in power?

    Please let the innocent citizens of this country become aware of your REAL AGENDA

    • “An extremely dangerous proposition for the socio-political construct in India!

      This will create great strife socially among female offspring and conservative parents.

      It might also scare away a large number of young people travelling to India from rest of the world for educational and tourism purposes due the inherent dangerous situations such an enactment May land them into.

      It is bound to increase and expand the already burdensome police corruption and political string-pulling!

      It will lead to great oppression of young women and men that are more sociopolitically enlightened, seek to break inhuman caste and religious shackles and exercise their own consensual human rights to choose their partner in life leading or not leading to a marriage.

  5. Hi – “sources in the government” is a flimsy excuse for fake news. I expect better from theprint- for example – if this is opinion – provide facts to the reader either in support or opposition to the argument. Many countries have higher age than 18 – what is the evidence there ? Etc.

    Thank you.

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