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Increase in the minimum age of marriage for women to 21 years two years after Bill is notified: Centre

GS Paper 2

Syllabus: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation

 

Source: TH

Context: The increase in the minimum age of marriage for women to 21 years as provisioned in the Prohibition of Child Marriage Amendment Bill, 2021, would come into effect two years after the Bill is notified following its passage in Parliament.

 

Background:

  • According to the NFHS-5, 23% (47% in NFHS-3 and 27% in NFHS-4 ) of women between the age of 20 and 24 were married before 18 years of age.
  • In India, the practice of child marriage was first legally prohibited through the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 (legal age G = 14 years and B = 18 years)
  • This Act was amended in 1978 to increase the minimum age to 18 years for females, and 21 years for men.
  • The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 replaced the 1929 Act, with the same minimum age limits.
  • In 2020, the central government set up a task force (Chairperson: Ms Jaya Jaitly) to examine the correlation between the age of marriage and the mother, and the child’s health.
  • The Committee suggested increasing the age of marriage for females to 21.

 

The Prohibition of Child Marriage Amendment Bill 2021: The Bill, introduced by the Ministry of Women and Child Development and currently with the Parliamentary Standing Committee, amends the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006.

 

2021 BillThe Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006Object and reasons of the BillKey issues
●        Increasing the age of marriage for females to 21 years and also specifies that the provisions of the Act shall override any other law, custom, usage or practice.

●        Increasing the time period for filing a petition to annul child marriage to five years (i.e., 23 years).

 

●        M = 21 years, F = 18 years

●        A person who is married before the minimum specified age may apply to annul the marriage within two years of attaining majority (i.e., 20 years of age).

Improvement of –

●        Maternal and infant mortality rates (IMR and MMR)

●        Nutrition levels

●        Sex ratio at birth (SRB)

●        Education, professional training and vocational courses

●        Female labour force participation

●        Gender equality, empowerment of women. 

●        Different ages for attaining majority (18) and being allowed to marry (21)

●        Prohibiting marriages between the ages of 18 and 21 years – Violates Article 19, 21 (SC in the Navtej Singh Johar case 2018)

●        A person married between 18 and 21 years may also apply for annulling the marriage

●        Implementation challenges – There has been limited success in curbing the marriage of girls below the age of 18 years.

 

Way ahead:

  • Two years from the date of notification of the amendment would provide ample time for citizens to prepare for this momentous reform.
  • A staggered schedule raising the age of marriage by one year at a time, starting one year after the notification of the amendment.

 

Insta Links:

The Prohibition of Child Marriage Amendment Bill 2021

 

Mains Links:

“Empowering women is the key to controlling population growth”. Discuss. (UPSC 2019)