The government is likely to introduce the prohibition of child marriage amendment bill unifying the age of marriage of different communities to ensure a uniform marriage age on December 20. A
s of now, the legal age of women to get married is 18 while that for men is 21 years. The change will make it 21 years for both men and women.
The decision came a year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the government was deliberating on what should be the minimum age for marriage of women. The decision is based on the recommendation of a four-member task force led by former Samata Party chief Jaya Jaitly.
Experts, however, expressed concern about the bill. Amita Pitre, Lead Specialist, Gender Justice, Oxfam India, told PTI the latest NFHS 5 report shows that the number of women marrying early (before 18 years) has reduced from 27 per cent in NFHS 4 to 23 per cent.
“Even so nearly, 50 to 60 per cent of marriages still take place before the age of 21 years. Raising the age of marriage to 21 years will criminalise all such marriages taking place in future. The minimum age of marriage has been 18 years since 1978. Clearly law alone is not successful in raising the age of marriage. In upper and middle classes, girls marry much beyond the age of 21 years and this happened without the compulsion of law,” he said.
The official added that the harms of criminalising marriage of girls below 21 years are manifold, which even manifest for those married under 18 years.