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Reducing the age of marriage

Mains- GS-2-Social Justice, Mains- GS-1- Society

1. The government has set up a special task force to advise it on raising the age of marriage for girls from 18 to 21 years.

2. Usually, India is near the bottom of the international rankings on gender indicators, as it has the largest absolute number of girls marrying below the age of 18.

3. Raising the age of marriage to 21 is expected to promote gender equality and address the health problems of young mothers and their infants.

Critical analysis

1. As per National Family Health Survey-4, the proportion of those in the age group 20-24 years married before reaching 18 years of age is 26.8% down from 47%.

2. NFHS-4 shows that only 6.6% were marrying below the age of 15.

3. So, in India, the problem is not that of Child marriages but that of declining late adolescent marriages.

4. There is a scientific and global consensus on 18 years as the age of social adulthood. Raising the age of marriage wouldn’t be effective.

5. Raising the age of marriage will raise the age of motherhood and will increase the probability of mother and child being healthier. It will also lower the fertility rate.

6. But the current bad health indicators on young mothers and their infants is because of poverty and not the age of marriage.

7. If poor women continue to remain poor and malnourished, raising their age of marriage will not change anything.

8. Also, poor families are now having small families, and nothing will be gained by pushing them to have more children at a later date.

9. In India, poorer women are marrying earlier than wealthier women. But fertility rates in Indian states with high rates of early marriage have been declining sharply.

10. If the legal age of marriage for women was raised to 21, 56% of Indian women in the 20-24 year age group (who married below 21) would be without legal protections.

11. Their families would also be liable for punishment under the new law.

Source: The Indian Express.