By Diya Nayak
29th August, 2020
Over 100 Civil Societies issued a joint statement urging the government to refrain from increasing the minimum marriage age for women stating that the move will disproportionately affect women of marginalised communities and raised questions about how raising the minimum marriage age benefits women. This move comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that a special task force committee was set up to consider the increase of the legal marriageable age from 18 to 21, during his Independence day address. In their official statement, the Civil Bodies mentioned that though these proposed laws will criminalise child marriage and they do not prevent it. They stated that this move was detrimental to poor rural families who are forced to marry early due to their financial insecurity.
The statement explained how women in rural areas would be most affected due to this revision, as most of them depend on early marriage in order to improve their standards of living. Some activists even argued that this revision might lead to a rise in female foeticide as underprivileged parents might feel financially burdened to house their daughters till they turn 21.
Adding that the move was superficial and does nothing to improve women’s equality, or empower women in the country, activists stated that this change was neither a priority, not a necessity.
The government’s decision to increase the minimum age was hinted at the beginning of the year by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman when she announced the Budget for the year 2020-202. She announced that a committee was being formed to provide recommendations on the subject, in light that the government aimed to encourage more women to pursue higher education.
However, many women and child’s rights activists refuted this by stating that there will be reform only if the problem of child marriage and women equality is tackled by understanding the determinants causing child marriage and introducing amendments at grassroots levels, (like schools) to increase access to higher education and better job opportunities.
They emphasised that the government should focus on bridging the gap between higher secondary education and college education by strengthening pre-existing institutions, as it benefitted women more.
The joint statement which garnered the support of over 2,500 youngsters and 100 civil society organisations also recommended that if the government wanted legal equality for all genders, then they should consider reducing the legal marriageable age of Men from 21 to 18, which is followed in most countries.
The PMO responded to this please, informing that the government would take a decision based on the report from the task force -a ten-member team, headed by NITI AAYOG Member Vinodh Paul and MP Jaya Jaitly, which is yet to be released.
Sources: The New Indian Express, The Indian Express, ShethePeople.tv
Edited by Sagarika Satapathy.