“A woman is a full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform,” was rightly said by Diane Mariechild.
We all are living in an era where gender equality is rising. Women empowerment is a much-talked-about subject. India has been a patriarchal society since time immemorial. It has come a long way to improve its status, but there are still some loopholes in our system that needs to be addressed.
The government is going to revise women’s legal marriage age from 18 years to 21. In February 2020, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, during her budget speech, announced that this decision is important and will be looked into again in the span of the next six months. The task force has been set up, which will be headed by former Samata Party President Jaya Jaitly, and have distinguished members including V K Paul, Member, Health, NITI Aayog. This task force will submit its recommendation on 31st July.
The purpose of this proposal is to:
Child marriage was first outlawed in India by the British in 1929 by passing the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929. The law underwent a host of changes in 1950. In 1978, the legal age of marriage for women was set at 18 years and men at 21 years. This act is popularly known as the Sarda Act.
While the prevalence of girls getting married before the age of 18 has declined from 47% as recorded in 2005 to 27% in 2016, the numbers are still soaring. According to the Ministry of Statistics And Programme Implementation, child marriage is more prevalent in rural areas than in urban.
The major cause of deaths of girls who are aged 15- 9 years is pregnancy-related complications. Women who are married and impregnated at a very early age lack the recourse to proper education, skilled child delivery, and a complete vaccination course for infants. This is due to lack of child healthcare in India.
A higher age of marriage would imply an increased likelihood of accessing educational opportunities for girls, which would give them increased access to economic independence, and greater freedom of martial choices. There has been a positive correlation established between educational qualification, lower fertility rates and more reproductive freedom. This would ultimately be a boon for both maternal and child nutritional health. Moreover, it will bring parity between the mean age of marriage of both male and female.
India is a layered society with different mindsets. The major challenge before the government would be to universally implement it, especially in rural areas where sexism is still a rampant problem. Communities, especially the oppressed ones, fear that the daughter should be married off sooner before they attain puberty. This will have to be dealt with by creating more awareness, thus implementing stricter measures.
This judgement, if passed, will have a huge impact on child marriages. Setting a higher marriageable age will enforce stricter laws around marriages in the country. It will definitely be a boon to women as many unrealised dreams would get wings. It will also bring a severe jolt to the existing patriarchial mindset, and women will be given equality in the truest sense.