What is the ‘Right” age for Women to get Married? Community Debating Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021

In this video, Community Correspondent Ms Jyoti Kadam is talking to her community in Morena, Madhya Pradesh, India to understand their thoughts on newly proposed Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021. Last year in December 2021 the union government approved the proposal to raise the legal age of marriage for women from 18 to 21, based on the recommendations of a NITI Aayog task force. The amendment was introduced in Lok Sabha on 20th December 2021. To further examine after the arguments the bill was sent to the standing committee

The NGOs that are working for Children's Rights issues, Women Issues are looking at this law with a sense of relief. They know that the early marriage of girls results in various complications, physical, mental and social. The physiology of young girls are not ready to bear children, also, because of early motherhood, the young mothers often suffer severe mental conditions, on top of that, the higher education for the girls can be hindered. The member of the NGO in this video says that they used to get 30-35 cases of child marriage per month.

On the other hand, the poor parents are asking the Government for assistance if they extend the marriageable age to 21. The financial pressure is enormous for them if they have to wait till 21 years of age to get their daughters married, and often they mentioned that in villages the girls do not study past 10th standard. Also they fear if any untoward incidence (such as rape, assault or harassment) may happen if a young women stays in the house. If they are married early, they will be in in-law’s house and their honour will be preserved. They said the government should put more focus on security and well-being rather than marriageable age.

India’s Health Ministry on Twitter mentioned that raising the age of marriage would prepare girls physiologically and psychologically to shoulder the responsibility of marriage and children and It would also increase women's participation in the workforce and be a boon for maternal and child health.

Though the majority is supporting this decision, the idea of a legal fix is a problematic one. India’s poverty is a bigger hurdle than this issue. The early marriage happens mostly in lower income families, the younger the girl, the lesser is the ‘Dowry’ (A dowry is a payment, such as money or property, paid by the bride's family to the groom or his family at the time of marriage.)-they are often burdened with lack of access to health and education.

Mary John, of Centre for Women’s Development Studies opines (*) that the Government should fight to end the practice of Dowry that incentivises early marriage. Also the Government should push for better educational practices and employability.

The amendment in the Prohibition of Child Marriages Act, 2006, is proposed to extend to all communities, irrespective of religion.

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