Indian government is looking at the possibility to increase the marriageable age of women in India. Due to the increase in basic education and amenities, a task force is now activity exploring changing the legal age of marriage for women from 18 to 21. Since 1978, the minimum legal age for marriage has been 18 for women and 21 for men. The main reason for reconsidering this is the maternal mortality rate and health of young mothers in India.
In February, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced during the budget session that this decision is important and will be looked into again in the span of the next six months.
According to a study by UNICEF, 27% of girls in India are married before their 18th birthday. Since 1978, the legal age of marriage for women has been 18 and 21 for men. But with a progressive mindset, this might soon change.
Following the announcement, the Ministry of Women and Child Development released an official statement on June 6, revealing, “The government of India, in a gazette notification issued on 4th June, 2020 has set up a task force to examine the age of motherhood, imperatives of lowering MMR, improvement of nutritional levels and related issues.”
The task force will suggest ways to encourage higher education among women, explore the impact of marital age on infant mortality rate, maternal mortality rate, the mental health of the mother, nutritional status of both the mother and child, sex ratio at birth and child sex ratio. It will also come up with relevant amendments in the existing laws to implement its recommendations. Moreover, it will be provided with secretarial assistance by Niti Ayog.
The major cause of deaths of girls who are 15-19 years old is pregnancy-related complications. The number of women and girls in India who died due to issues during pregnancy and childbirth in the year 2017 was as high as 35000, though it has significantly decreased from 103,000 in 2000. Women who are married and impregnated at a very early age lack the recourse to proper education and access to health care, antenatal care, skilled child delivery and the complete vaccination of the infants which explains the lack of child health care.
As per the 1978 amendment of the Sharda Act of 1929, the marital age of women in India remains 18 while for men it is 21 years. The task force, therefore, will also focus on removing the gender parity in the marital age and raising the women’s marital age from 18 to 21 years, Tribune India reported.