The proposal to raise the minimum age of marriage for women from 18 to 21 was cleared by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday, sources said, a year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the plan is under review.
Prime Minister Modi, during his Independence Day speech last year, had made a mention of the proposal.
“This government is constantly concerned about the health of daughters and sisters. To save the daughters from malnutrition, it is necessary that they’re married at the right age,” the Prime Minister had said.
Presently, the minimum age of marriage for men is 21 but for women, it is 18.
The government is eyeing changes to the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, Special Marriage Act, and the Hindu Marriage Act to bring the plan into action.
A NITI Aayog task force headed by Jaya Jaitly had backed the proposal.
Top government expert VK Paul, senior officials of the Health Ministry, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Law Ministry were among the members of the task force, which was set up in June last year.
The recommendations on the proposal were submitted in December as the task force stressed a woman must be at least 21 years old at the time of first pregnancy.
The delay in marriages has a positive financial, social, and health impact on families, society, and children.
The task force, which was set up by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in June 2020, received feedback from young adults that the age of marriage for women should be 22-23 years. It also recommended that sex education be formalised and introduced in the school curriculum.
Section 5(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 sets 18 years as the minimum age for the bride and 21 for the groom. The Special Marriage Act, 1954 and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 also prescribe 18 and 21 years as the minimum age of consent for marriage for women and men, respectively.
In his 2020 Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that his government will soon reconsider and determine the right age of marriage for women in India.
During her 2020-21 Budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said: “Women’s age of marriage was increased from 15 years to 18 years in 1978, by amending the erstwhile Sharda Act of 1929. As India progresses further, opportunities open up for women to pursue higher education and careers. There are imperatives of lowering MMR as well as improvement of nutrition levels. Entire issue about the age of a girl entering motherhood needs to be seen in this light.”