The legal age of marriage for women in India is likely to be revised from 18-years of age to 21-years of age as the government has formed a high-level committee to go into the matter and submit recommendations by July 31.

• The ten-member task force will have as members Secretaries Health, Women and Child Development, Law and School Education.
• It will be headed by former Samata Party president Jaya Jaitly and will have among members V K Paul, Member, Health, NITI Ayog.

The task force will examine the matters related to motherhood and marriage at an early age

  • the age of motherhood
  • imperatives of lcwering maternal mortality rate
  • improvement of nutritional levels
  • related issues

The History of laws regarding minimum age of marriage
The (Child Marriage) law prescribes a minimum age of marriage to essentially outlaw child marriages and prevent abuse of minors.

• The Indian Penal Code enacted in 1860 criminalised any sexual intercourse with a girl below the age of 10
• Age of Consent Bill, 1927 made marriages with a girl under 12 invalid

Sarda Act of 1929

• In 1929, the Child Marriage Restraint Act set 14 and 18 years as the minimum age of marriage for women and men respectively.
• The law is popularly known as Sarda Act after its sponsor Harbilas Sarda, a judge and a member of Arya Samaj.
• The Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 was the first social reform issue taken up by an organized women’s group in India.

• This group pressured many politicians into supporting the act by picketing their delegations, holding placards and shouting slogans.

• They believed that with the passing of this act 2020, it would show the world that India is serious about social reforms.

Was the law implemented?

• The Act remained a dead letter during the colonial period of British rule in India’s
• British did not want to earn the displeasure of the communal elements among the Hindus and Muslims.
• Princely states were exempted.

Post Independence

• The Special Marriage Act, 1954

• 1978 – Sarda act amended . Since then, the minimum legal age for marriage has been 18 for women and 21 for men.
• 2006 – Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 also prescribe 18 and 21 years as the minimum age of consent for marriage for women and men respectively. Strict punishments .

The various laws

• Personal laws of various religions in India that deal with marriage have their own standards, often reflecting custom.

• For Hinduism, Section 5(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 sets 18 years as the minimum age for the bride (Girl) and 21 years as the minimum age for the groom (Boy).

• In Religion, the marriage of a minor who has attained puberty is considered valid under personal law.

Problems arising out of early marriage

Data reflects that girls who are married before the age of 18 are

✓ More likely to experience unwanted pregnancies

✓ Vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases and

✓ At a greater risk of pregnancy related complications and maternal mortality.

✓ Lack the recourse to proper education and access to health care, antenatal care, skilled child delivery and the complete vaccination of the infants

Infant mortality and death of young children is significantly higher in children born to mothers who are married at an early age, according to a report by NCBI.

How big a problem is this?

• In 2005-2006, 44.5 % of women between the ages of 20-24 years in India reported being married before 18 years of age.
• As per a UNICEF study, around of the women in India are married before turning 18.
• Girls in the age group of 15-19 who died due to issues during pregnancy and childbirth in the year 2017 – 11 The number was 103,000 in 2000. Age of marriage to be increased to 21 for girls Age of marriage to be increased to 21 for girls