New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated his government’s intention to reconsider the minimum age of marriage for women, in his Independence Day address Saturday.
“We have set up a committee to reconsider the minimum age for marriage of our daughters. We will take appropriate decision after the committee submits its report,” Modi said at the Red Fort.
The legal age for marriage in India is 18 for women and 21 for men. Reports that the government is looking to review the threshold have been doing the rounds, but it is not known so far what the new age limit might be. Efforts in this direction are aimed at ensuring that women are not pushed into marriage and motherhood before they are ready, a factor that can put her and the child’s health at risk.
In June, the Women and Child Development Ministry set up a high-level committee under former Samata Party president Jaya Jaitly to review the legal age for marriage of women. The committee, which had a deadline of 31 July, is yet to submit its report to the government.
While presenting the 2020 budget, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman spoke about constituting a task-force to provide recommendations on the appropriate age for women to enter motherhood, with an aim to lower the maternal mortality rate.
In 2018, the National Human Rights Commission had recommended that the marriageable age for both women and men should be uniform in India. The human rights watchdog, however, stopped short of specifying what that age should be.
The same year, the Law Commission had recommended that the legal age for marriage for both sexes, cutting across religions, should be fixed at 18 years, the universal age of majority.
‘Equal opportunities for women’
In his address Saturday, the PM also said India is determined to provide equal opportunities for self-employment and employment to women.
“Whenever women received opportunity, they made India proud and strengthened it. Today, the nation is determined to provide equal opportunities for self-employment and employment to them,” he said. “Today women are working in coal mines, our daughters are touching the skies while flying fighter planes.”
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