Just One Woman On The Panel Examining Bill To Raise Legal Age Of Marriage

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Only One Woman in Panel examining Bill To Raise Legal Age Of Marriage: The panel of 31 members working on the amendment of Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2021, striving to change the legal age for women to marry from 18 years to 21 years, has only one woman on it.

The parliamentary standing committee available on the Rajya Sabha website provided that the panel will be led by senior BJP leader Dr Vinay P Sahasrabuddhe and Trinamool Congress MP Sushmita Dev the only woman member on the panel.

The Bill seeks to amend seven personal laws, the Prohibition of Christian Marriage Act, 2006; Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936; Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937; Special Marriage Act, 1954; Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; and Foreign Marriage Act, 1969.

The Bill was opposed by some of the members who argued that it infringed upon the personal laws and fundamental rights, hence a parliamentary panel was set up for greater scrutiny.

The bill was passed in order to attain equality of women by allowing both men and women to marry at 21.

“Age of marriage should be uniformly applicable across all religions/castes/creeds overriding any custom/law discriminating against women. We’re 75 years late in providing equal rights to women,” said Smriti Irani while introducing the bill.

A panel that seeks to ensure equality of men and women and that deals with a significant issue related to women, it is rather surprising to see just one woman in that panel. It looks like a merely a tokenism.

It is unfair for a panel having just one woman to be deciding the legal age of marriage for women.

“I am the only female member in the Standing Committee which would be looking into the bill, but I will try my best to ensure that the Chairman of the Committee listens to every voice across the board,” Sushmita Dev said.

The raising of women’s minimum marriageable age is based on  recommendations of the Jaya Jaitly Committee. It was constituted by the WCD Ministry in June 2020.

The NCP MP Supriya Sule also believes that there should have been more women in a panel that will deliberate on issues related to women.

She added that the chairman has the power to invite people before the panel. So for more inclusive and wider discussions, he can invite other women MPs. “I would request all political parties especially those who have been supportive of women reservation to replace their MPs on the panel with female MPs if the system permits or suggest their MPs to consult female MPs while deliberating on this important legislation,” Jaitly said. 

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