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Raising Marriageable Age for Women (31 October 2020)

Raising Marriageable Age for Women (31 October 2020)

Why in News:

Govt to Take Decision on Right Age of Marriage for Women Soon: PM


Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 16th October assured the girls of the country that the government will decide the right age for marriage as soon as a concerned committee gives its report. "Discussion is underway to decide the right age for marriage of our daughters. From across the country, daughters have written to me asking why the concerned committee has not given its decision yet. I assure you that as soon as the report comes, the government will act on it," Prime Minister Modi said during an event to release a commemorative coin of ? 75 denomination to mark the 75th Anniversary of India's long-standing relation with the Food and Agriculture Organisation.


Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA), 2006, sets minimum age of marriage at 18 years for women and at 21 for men.

In June this year, the Centre had formed a 10-member task force under Jaya Jaitley, to recommend whether the legal age of marriage for women could be changed from 18 years.

The proposal to raise the legal age for marriage of women carries “enormous" economic and social gains for India, according to a State Bank of India report.

The report titled, "Increasing the legal age of women’s marriage: A dominant strategy for societal good, financially empowering women," counts benefits such as lowering maternal deaths and improving nutrition levels in the near term to putting more girls in college and enabling women to achieve greater financial independence in the long-term.

Summary of the Debate

Economic benefits of Raising Marriageable Age for Women:

  • The female labour force participation in India is hovering between 25 and 28 percent and in the neighbouring countries like Nepal and Bangladesh, it is around 80 percent. The global average is around 60 percent.
  • When women's marriage age will increase, women will get opportunities to pursue higher education and careers and It will allow more women to get into labour force.
  • If the women are highly educated and skilled, the nation’s productivity certainly goes up.
  • In a country like India, if the women are highly educated and skilled, she rubs shoulder to shoulder and the productivity is at the highest.
  • If India has to grow at the level that it is anticipating and become a  $ 5 trillion or $ 20 trillion economy, it is necessary to use every bit of labour that is available in our country and women are part of that labour.


Challenges faced by women:

  • There are still so many families who consider a girl to be a burden due to the safety and security of the girl.
  • According to a research note by SBI Ecowrap, 35 per cent of females in India are still married before the age of 21 years.
  • Because of the pressure from the society, most of the families like to get their daughter married at an early age.
  • Large section of the rural women is not able to get basic education and basic health facility and just raising the age at marriage is not going to improve the plight in any way.
  • Child marriage is a factor of poverty, it is a factor of lack of access to education for girls.
  • When families are steeped in poverty, when they do not have money to send their children, mainly the girls to school that is when they consider them as a burden and just wanting to get rid of them.
  • In India, women are highly malnourished, and their nutrition level is so low and when they produce children, the children suffers from stunting and wasting.

Benefits of women being financially independent:

  • It improves the status of a woman in the family and outside the family.
  • She does not have to look up to her husband or her in-laws to get paltry sums of money.
  • It improves the self-esteem of a woman.
  • If the women are highly educated and skilled and trained, she can be confident of leaving the marriage and living alone.
  • Once a woman is financially independent, she become a beautiful asset for the family.
  • It will lead to social benefits like lowering Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) as well as improvement of nutrition levels.

Way Forward:

  • Just raising the age of marriage is not enough, it is important to ensure that women are given the right kind of opportunities, right kind of skill sets and the right kind of education as well.
  • We need to bring about a change at the level of society, at the level of the mindset.
  • It is important to enact and enforce legislation and develop and implement policies that promote gender equality.
  • We need to increase the age of marriage of girls, but we also have to ensure that we look at this issue holistically and ensure that the existing laws are well implemented and women are treated on par with boys and men.
  • When a woman is educated and financially independent, the entire family and ecosystem benefits.
  • It is very necessary for any society to make sustainable progress to empower our women and for that two most important things are the quality of education and the skills and for that it is very necessary that they are not under pressure of getting married at an early age.

Important points made by the Guests

Shankar Aggarwal, Former Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development 

  • Earlier, the girls were getting married at the age of 11 years, 13 years and 15 years.
  • The girls were not in a position to take a decision for themselves so that decision was being taken by the parents or somebody else.
  • That did not allow them to pursue their education and unless they have got good quality and sufficient education, they will not be able to take decision on their own and they will not be able to take up a career.
  • Due to getting married at an early age, there are lots of implication on the health like child mortality, health during the pregnancy.
  • Under all these circumstance, it was found that to take this country forward, it is important to empower women and one way to empower women is to give them good education so that they become financially independent and they should be in a position to take major decisions of their life on their own.

Ruby Bhardwaj, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Delhi University 

  • There should be gender parity. Both girls and boys enter school at the same age, they leave school at same age, but school girls who have just about 17 or 18 who just left school, saddled with motherhood soon after their schooling, they do not get an opportunity to explore what they want to do, either in terms of higher education or finding some skill based courses.
  • There is need to look at the issue in more holistic manner, with increasing the age of marriage, it is also important at the same time to ensure the implementation of right to education, giving better education and giving better nutritional levels.
  • Higher education and little later age in life in marriage for women is empowering her.
  • Women who are highly educated and when they get into marriage, the demand of dowry does not arise or is minimal.

Prof. Charan Singh, Economist & CEO, EGROW Foundation 

  • There are two things in country’s economic growth:
    • Labour: Where the women fit in.
    • Capital: The banking industry, the stock market.
  • If the women have to join labour force, she has to be adequately skilled and she has to be properly educated.
  • Women is not just part of the labour force, she is also a mother that means she is generating another labour force and if in her age she is young and not fully prepared for the motherhood duties, it will lead to stunting of the children and herself.
  • The Nobel laureate Angus Deaton, wrote in his book that, ‘In India, because the population is so highly undernourished, the height is not what it should be’ and he was giving the example of the Dutch women and said how tall they are, because they are fully nourished.
  • The women workforce in India needs proper education, proper skilling and she has to have the adequate level of maturity both physical and emotional before she starts taking responsibility of motherhood.
  • There have been studies which have been conducted which show, ‘When the motherhood starts at a young age, it impacts the mother, and it impacts the child and impact the families’.
  • The Maternal Mortality Rate in India is 145 deaths for 1 lakh birth and the world’s best standard are 2.
  • In countries where there is very scarce population or the fertility rate is very low, there are countries where 18 or 19 years is the prescribed marriage for the female, whereas for the men, it is 22, but those are countries where population is very less.
  • In countries like India, where the population pressure is high, fertility rate is above 2.1 percent, it is obvious when you raise the age, what you do is, you minimize or reduce or optimize the fertility period, the child bearing age of mother.
  • A highly educated woman can help the labour force in two ways, firstly; She contributes and secondly, she brings up the children in a way who are highly productive as Gandhi has said “If you educate a man you only educate an individual, but when you educate a woman you educate the whole family”.


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