ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Criminalising under-21 Marriage in India

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Atask force set up by the Government of India has re-examined the age at marriage in India for women, and the union cabinet has sanctioned the proposal to raise the minimum marital age of women to 21 years, making it equal to that of men. Though the government introduced this move with good intentions, it is not devoid of any consequences. Since 1978, the minimum marital age for girls has been set at 18 years by law, and the country has witnessed considerable occurrence of child marriages ever since till date. It throws light into the reality that socio-economic development, rather than coercive laws, works in favour of reducing child marriage and empowering women.

The proposal of the central government can be scrutinised through multiple vantage points. When the global consensus has set 18 years as the minimum—not mandatory—age and when an individual is bestowed with voting, consent-giving, and other rights at this age, it is ambiguous as to why the marital age should be raised, especially in a country where parents can use this to curtail the freedom of women by quoting the possibility of elopement. In addition to that, the chances of using the proposal to suppress the sexuality of youth cannot be overruled. The move would hence be counterproductive as women’s attainment of decision-making power is further delayed and they are put into the so-called protective care of parental control.

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Updated On : 3rd Jan, 2022
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