Earlier this year, while presenting the Union Budget for 2020, India's finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman had proposed the idea of setting up a dedicated taskforce to review the minimum age for marriage for women in India. The basic aim of the proposal was to study the implication of early marriage and its impact on the maternal health of women. “As India progresses further, opportunities open up for women to pursue higher education and careers. There are imperatives of lowering MMR (maternal mortality rate) as well as improvement of nutrition levels. [The] entire issue about the age of a girl entering motherhood needs to be seen in this light,” she had said during the budget announcements.
Seems like the idea is finally going to materialise as Child Development Ministry (WCD) has also shared the possibility of changing the minimum legal age for women to get married in India from 18 to 21 years. As per a report by Tribune, the government has already formed a specialised committee to explore the idea and share results and suggestions by July end. Headed by former Samata Party president Jaya Jaitly, the taskforce has been asked by the government to study the correlation between age, marriage, motherhood, and mental health.
Ministry of Women and Child Development also released an official statement recently and shared, “The government of India, in a gazette notification issued on 4th June 2020 has set up a task force to examine the age of motherhood, imperatives of lowering MMR, improvement of nutritional levels and related issues.”
The legal age for marriage for men and women has been at 21 and 18 respectively since 1978 in India. As per media reports, the decision was made after considerations were made on the parity between minimum legal age for marriage for men and women besides maternal health being the primary consideration.
As per an NCBI report, infant mortality and the health risk for mothers is significantly high when conception happens at a relatively younger age for women. These pregnancies and long prolonged reproductive years equated with early marriages have been major driving forces for the government to consider a revision in the minimum legal age for women to get married.
If implemented, this revision can make a great difference for girls and women from different parts of India where they are married as soon as they are "of age." Also, new revisions in law would also mean stricter implementations and watch on the same. The changes will also bring great hope for girls who seek to pursue a career after finishing an education instead of just settling for an early marriage.