New Delhi: The Union Cabinet has decided to raise the legal age of marriage for women from 18 years to 21 years. The decision was arrived at on the basis of aspects such as gender neutrality, improvement of health and nutritional levels for women, and population control.
The Central Government's plan is to introduce the amendment Bill for raising the marriage age during this Parliament session itself. The Parliament session will last up to December 23.
As per the plan, the relevant provisions of the Child Marriage Restraint Act will be amended. There are also plans to revise certain provisions of the personal laws of various religions.
The decision was taken as per the recommendations of the task force appointed by the Central Government in 2020 which was headed by former Samata Party leader Jaya Jaitly. The task force looked into matters related to motherhood and marriage at an early age, mortality rates and medical well-being of the mother and child.
The members of the task force were V K Paul, Member, Health, NITI Ayog; Ajma Akhtar, Vasudha Kamath, Dipti Shah and the Union Secretaries of the Health, Women and Child Development, Law and School Education Departments.
The task force gave the recommendation after studying in detail the age of motherhood, imperatives of lowering maternal mortality rate, improvement of nutritional levels and related issues faced by women.
Marriage age for women was 14 years in 1929
India has come a long way in implementing the socially progressive step of raising the legal age of marriage for women. As per the Child Marriage Restraint Act passed in September 28, 1929 by the British regime, the legal age of marriage for woman was 14 years. For men, it was 18 years of age.
This Bill was known in the name of former Judge Har Bilas Sarda, who moved the Bill in the Central Legislative Assembly. It was in 1978 that Sarda law was amended. The legal age of marriage for men and women was then fixed at 21 years and 18 years respectively.
In 2006, though the Parliament passed the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, no change was effected the legal age of marriage for men and women.