Lok Sabha: Smriti Irani introduces bill on women's marriage age
Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani on Tuesday introduced the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021 in the Lok Sabha. The bill aims to raise the legal minimum age of marriage for women from 18 years to 21 years. She also requested the chair to refer the matter to a parliamentary standing committee.
Why does it matter?
- The proposal aims to make the legal minimum age to marry the same for women and men (21 years).
- The bill seeks to amend all existing laws, including any usage, ritual, or practice that governs marriage in India.
- Opposition leaders have been protesting against the bill largely as they claim they had not been consulted on it.
7 personal laws to be amended
It seeks to amend seven personal laws: the Foreign Marriage Act, the Hindu Marriage Act; the Indian Christian Marriage Act; the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act; the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act; and the Special Marriage Act.
'Men, women need equal rights in matrimony'
"After so many years of independence, men and women need equal rights in matrimony," Irani said in Parliament. The teen pregnancy rate in girls aged 15-18 years is 7% while 23% of girls were married under the age of 18, Irani said. The bill will help reduce teenage pregnancies that are more prone to miscarriages and stillbirths, she added.
Who are opposing the bill?
Apart from members of the civil society, Opposition leaders Asaduddin Owaisi (AIMIM), Saugata Roy (TMC), and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury (Congress) are against the bill. While most were miffed over not being consulted over the bill, Owaisi argued against lowering the age altogether. "18-year-old men and women can sign contracts, start businesses, choose prime ministers, and elect MPs and MLAs, but not marry?" he questioned.
Cabinet gave in-principle nod to raising marriage age last week
Earlier on December 15, the Union Cabinet had accepted a proposal to raise the legal marriage age for women from 18 years to 21 years. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also unveiled this idea at his Independence Day speech in 2020.