Tweak in Girls’ Marriage Age, per se A Good Move, But for Concerns

There is a need for hiking girls' age for marriage
Keywords: Girl Child | Marriage | Education | Health | Uniform Civil Code | Population Control | Social Progress | Society

Child marriage ends childhood. It negatively influences children’s rights to education, health and protection. These consequences impact not just the girl directly, but also her family and the community. Estimates suggest that each year, at least 1.5 million girls under 18 get married in India, which makes it home to the largest number of child brides in the world – accounting for a third of the global total” says a report of United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), India. Early girl-child marriage has an effect, undeniably, on girl child development on many fronts viz. education, knowledge, skills, employability, health and nourishment. If prevented, health hazards like: early pregnancies (which take a toll on the mother’s body by weakening her physically or leading to her death while delivering) and infant mortality rate would substantially decrease.  

Early girl-child marriage has an effect, undeniably, on girl child development on many fronts viz. education, knowledge, skills, employability, health and nourishment.

However, as is stated in the same report, the picture is not that gloomy. There is a decline already taking place, as far as child marriages are concerned in India over a period. No doubt, there are people in some pockets  who deem girl-child marriage to be a conventionally agreeable and an accepted phenomenon, though the law prohibits it. They cite reasons such as: ‘security and safety of the girl lies in her marriage’, forgetting what is due to her through education that increases self-esteem,  dignity, social status, economic uplift, and as an educated woman her contribution to her family, children and to the society. 

Keeping all the above aspects in view, to combat child marriages, the government is considering raising the age of marriage for women. Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi touched upon the subject in his speech during the recent Independence Day Celebrations and said that to take up the issue effectively, a task force had been set-up. Earlier, way back, in 1929, Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 or the Sarda Act was amended by increasing girls’ marriage age from 15 to 18 years. That did not deter many to marry their girl-child early on. More often, laws of the kind remain in the statute books. The Dowry Act that outlawed the dowry system is another example of the sort. Though not open, tacitly/surreptitiously, with the understanding of both parties, it survives to a great extent. Hence, the change has to happen from within (the society) through awareness programs. Of course, laws are needed as an instrument for deterrence. Hence, there is a need for hiking the age for girl marriage too.

The objections expressed by many activists regarding the prospect of enacting such a law ( raising the marriage age for women from 18 years to 21) are speculative and belong to the type of questions raised about any reform proposal.  For critics, hiking the legal age is unlikely to improve mother and child development. This, in any case, is an unfounded claim. With the growth and maturity that the girl/woman attains, by age and education, conceiving a baby and handling of the infant would be better and healthier.  Their claim that making marriageable age equal (21 years) for a boy and a girl would not lead to  gender equality, defies the basic principle of the Constitution. 

The change has to happen from within (the society) through awareness programs. Of course, laws are needed as an instrument for deterrence.

The apprehension that if the law is enacted, it will criminalize early marriages must be considered for that is precisely the reason for proposing the law. Government policy to raise the legal age of marriage to 21 years for women is well thought but its implementation will be very difficult.  Alternatively,  as a welfare policy measure instead of a law, the government could conduct campaigns mobilizing health workers, community and religious leaders, to educate the concerned sections of the population. By now the middle classes are much ahead with regard to marriage age. They,  knowing the advantages of educating the girl-child, have made the task easier.  Through such a sustained campaign, India could contain population growth to a large extent. Family-planning/family-welfare programs have been deliberately adopted, by aware citizens in view of the benefits to their family and to the country at large. 

For years, legally a girl could marry at 18 but the rule is not strictly followed. Violations are not punished. Now, in this digital-age, when birthdates are registered and recorded meticulously by way of computerized data-storage in school records and Aadhaar-cards, a girl/boy’s age can no longer be concealed to allow a wedding to take place . Marriages also have to be registered. So, the government needs to consider whether it is necessary to pass an act for raising the legal age. However, there is no doubt that once the law is adopted checks and balances would automatically follow. 

Instead of enacting a law, a policy measure including some incentives and disincentives, might be more suitable . The beneficiaries from among the poor, who seek from the Centre and state governments, financial  incentives such as: Kalyana-Lakshmi and Shaadi-Mubarak (Telangana Govt. sponsored schemes), would only be entitled to them if the bride and bridegroom are of the legal age. If they fall a bit short for some reason, they may get reduced benefits. By giving incentives, family-planning policies have worked well. So would other such policies.

All said, other factors like the physical, psychological and emotional needs of young boys and girls seem not to have been taken into account while setting the legal marriage age. They should be adequately addressed as many young people who are in love or want to find a mate have no option outside of wedlock. Though India adopted liberal democracy, by and large the society remains conservative. 

Further, in a multi-religious country, minorities have their own personal laws, so whatever comes out as a law in statute books pertaining to marriage, would automatically be seen as reflecting the wish of the religious majority. The successive governments that ruled the country since independence should have promulgated a Uniform Civil Code, with respect to: marriage, divorce, maintenance and inheritance. That would thus have brought all citizens on one platform. 

Finally, for those who fear that India’s demographic dividend will dwindle with this rise in the marriage age, there is an answer from a renowned contemporary thinker, Yuval Noah Harari in an interview. He answered  to a question on birth rates and population decline in the world: “Only a few years ago people feared a demographic explosion that would lead to ecological meltdown…as computers and robots replace humans in the job market, the fear of a shrinking workforce might prove irrelevant, and the really big problem will be unemployment…having fewer kids means that you can give each of them more attention and invest greater resources in their education. Given the technological revolutions we are facing, I think countries that raise a small number of highly skilled individuals will be in a better position than countries that raise a large number of less skilled individuals.”

So, the twin goals of girl-child education and national development are related. Similarly, population control and social progress go hand in hand. Many experts opine that striving to end early girl-child marriage by 2030 would yield  nutritional benefits, enhance household security for girls and  transform Indian society for the better. 

The twin goals of girl-child education and national development are related. Similarly, population control and social progress go hand in hand.

45 comments

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  • Mrs Indira, author of the above article ‘Tweak in girl’s marriage age’ has taken up the issue and deliberated all aspects pertaining to it
    in a holistic manner.
    She gave us throwback into history of ‘child marriage acts’ and the way they are being overrided.
    In all earnestness, she wants this present law to benefit vast no of underprivileged girls.
    This suggestion of implementation of amended law through awareness programs is
    Practical and laudable step.

  • Birth of girl child need to be registered and her entry into domain of learning needs social nod. Marriage as per guidelines of the government is the prerogative right of the girl and there is no room for biased prejudices that are underscored by casteist or communal groups .
    Community as well society needs the cooperation of health workers, leaders and spiritual advocates to harness importance of girl child and their marriage only after growth in multiple fields viz education, employment and economic activities. Government and its orientation to economic incentives for family planning plus marriage of girls only after 21 years need much publicity and cooperation from all sectors: public and private.
    Social progress index as advocated by Amartyasen and others is evident only when state as well society becomes more attached to the concept of equality in all spheres.
    The writer of this article has justified the importance of girl child and her lead in opting for marriage as per guidelines stipulated by the state.
    Article has glossed over several indicators that are required to substantiate her plea and this is not a far cry as parents and their attitude towards girl child and her upgrowth in multiple sectors is sanely revised.
    Hope society and community help their inmates with out any bias in terms of caste, community, region, religion , customs or prejudices. Finally rural and urban divide in terms of literacy or marriage or other social devices need to be fully exterminated.

  • Neatly explained the consequences of early girl child marriages and the importance of raise in the legal age of marriage..Yes the girl child education and National Development are very much related..

    • An interesting article, offering finest arguments in favour of further raising marriage age.

      As rightly pointed out, implementation is always an issue but it surely acts as a strong deterrent . Incentive system and awareness building are two good approaches to make this change a success.

      Social systems always defy laws. But awareness makes a difference.

  • The author offers a well rounded view of the far reaching implications of this making this change to the legal age including to diverse areas such as education to financial independence and infant mortality.

    Thoughts on feasibility and method of implementation are quite thought provoking. The author dispassionately lays out the pros and cons of allowing the reader to form an informed opinion.

  • A really good suggestion coming out if this article is that of giving incentives and disincentives to promote abiding by the legal age of marriage. However, what is also to be considered is that a lot more of parents get the girl married to wash their hands of the financial “burden” of feeding an extra mouth.

  • Beautiful points and we’ll explained by the author Mrs.India. Education is very important for any girl or boy child. Child marriages should be completely stoped and no one should encourage. If a girl child is perfectly educated the society around her is also educated .

  • There no need of hiking the marriage age of a girl. Government should implement the present age strictly in the remote areas where the child marriages are still happening. Educate the public importance and the benefits of marriage of agirl at 18.

  • Implementation of lawas in India is always debatable topic. There are many cases are under reported. Marriage age enhancement may be advantage for who are intrested to concentrate in studies or vocational activities but people who involved in agrarian economy may face problems. It won’t affect the educated or above poverty middle class families but badly influence the lower strata. In this context, government also should think of more avenues for Education and vocational skills for girl children.
    The author has highlighted the entire scenario in a balanced way.

  • Dear indira,
    Your writeup is eye opening if followed strictly . particularly girls in rural areas should be taken care Government should concentrate in this respect and proper I centive be give to parents as per your good writeup.congratulatuons

  • The article by respected author is true in sense , only if govt is keen in implementing the uniform civil code , the laws like these marriage age extension, dowry etc.would bring the benefits that is expected. Whether democracy is means of treating everyone as same or treating everyone based on gender,cast, creed,religion and social status . As author said not only uniform civil code , but on a paper cast,creed,religion etc.should be completely removed ,to remove social evil of exploitation of the same.
    In a nut shell cast,creed,religion,faith free india should be declared to treat all citizens as one. All these descriminations are personal, but should never be promoted by the govt.
    Article illumines many dark areas that exist in implementation. Authors effort highly appreciated

  • Yes,it is true.As told by the author Smt Indira Govt should enhance the girls marriage age limit from 18 to 21.girls are exploited in poor communities largely.Higher and middle class people realised the importance of the girls education &economic freedom.Especially North Indians consider girls as burden&try to get red of them.If girls are well educated &econically good,harrasements&bride burnings will stop

  • 18 yrs to 21yrs correct age
    మానసికంగా శారీరికంగా అమ్మాయి బాగుంటుంది కాబట్టి
    ఈ మధ్య మరీ 25 to 30yrs మద్య పెళ్లిళ్లు అవుతున్నాయి
    ఇదే ఇబ్బంది అవుతూంది

  • Pros and cons of child marriage in all aspects were amazingly explained by the author…girl child education and society development both are correlated…

  • It’s excellently presented with detailed narration of ill effects of early child marriage denying the girl to enjoy her childhood. Besides the society stands glaring at the pathetic situation of a girl married at an early age . It not only affects her mental health But physically also they tend to become anemic during pregnancy and may lead mother as well as child mortality . Her maturity of mind depends on knowledge she gains which is cut short with marriage . Of late woman’s economic independence is also seen as a must to face any odd situation. Therefore the author has rightly depicted the perception of the society vi’s a vis the Government policy measure in addressing the perils & thus proposing to enhance the age limit For marriage . The punitive measures & incentives are well articulated in support of the government policy . The article encompasses all aspects of the issue and surely makes an interesting read

  • Very nice article Indirakka. It is a good move but incentives alone may not serve the purpose, policy is also very essential .

  • Insightful article on hiking girl’s age for marriage, the impact otherwise is clearly articulated. Next steps for adoption of a Uniform Civil Code is well taken and should be the next big move from the present government.

  • Mrs. G. Indira the author of the above article – Tweak in girl’s marriage age has taken up an issue which needs attention – you said very well and it’s really a good intiative, education is very important . Child marriage should be completely stopped. Definitely there is a need for hiking the age for girl marriages as the author explained the consequences of early marriage.

  • Very comprehensive Article
    I do agree with yhe idea of giving Incentives. 21 yrs as marriageble age sounds good for girls Unlessthere is pressure from above it is difficult to implement

  • Smt G Indira gave clear presentation of pros and cons of the raising the marriage of girlS from 18 to21
    Child marriage prohibition act of 2006 was the most needed legislation. But raising to 21 is debatable
    Almost all over the world age limit for marriage is 18 in most countries which also is age of becoming major . In some countries it is less than 18 provided there is parents’ consent or a court order. In about 17 states of USA there seems to be no age limit as such
    Since ages almost all over the world attainment of menarche(first menstruation) was the sole criteria for marriage of course most logical in line with the biological status of the individual and societal conditions
    The common reasons for Prevalence of child marraiges in India were poverty, illiteracy, religious beliefs , threats from Muslim invasions etc.
    In the present senerio there is definite decline in the number of child mariages, increase in the literacy rate and also decrease in poverty. Moreover people are learning more from social media and Internet rather than routine school education. The medical knowledge and facilities have percolated to rural areas also
    Also there is trend of decrease in the age of menarche(onset of first menstruation) from 13-15 to 10-11 in the recent 2 decades or so.
    The gap between menarche and marriage increases leading to problems of sexuality, dating, unwanted pregnancies, abortions etc.
    something to be thought of.
    The ideal age for pregnancy is 20-22. Postponing pregnancies leading to infertility problems and rampant growth of fertility clinics we are witnessing now
    Educated women and working Women, are they really able to efficiently taking care of the children and family due to uncaring husbands, to be pondered upon
    With the new educational policy giving priority to technical/professional knowledge might in future may be advantageous to girls who can become economically independent and look after the family in a better way
    Of course in states where child marriages aremore prevalent still giving incentives and increasing awareness programmes (apna beti apna Dhan in Haryana) is more desirable
    Again any legislation has to be implemented equally among all citizens. Otherwise it will lead to other problems. For eg in Malappuram district of Kerala( a state which boasts of 100percentliteracy)Percentage of child marriages in Muslims is 82percent (2012)
    Just increasing the age of marriage to 21 On par with boys is not going to result in gender equality

  • Very well explained by the author…In this era of social media public participation must increase to avoid Child marriages. The govt initiative is appreciative in increasing the age limit and the parents are to be made responsible for any violation with harsher punishment.

  • It is indeed a good idea to raise a girls marriage age to 21 for her all round devolepment.
    Simultaneously for her good health and good education vast improvement in the Public Health system and Education system should brought about especially in the lower strata of society.Basic infrastrutcre in these has to be improved and more amenities has to be improved.

  • Respected Indira madam…..
    ” A good and interesting article comes intellectual minds ”
    Mam you explained pros & cons of child marriages and importance of education.
    Govt should enhance the girls marrige age limit from 18-21 yrs because it not only effect her mental health but also physically they tend to become anemic during pregnancy.
    The common reason for child marriages is ” Poverty , Illiteracy , Religion beliefs , and Superstitions etc …..,
    Super article !!!! WONDERFUL

  • Mrs G.Indira, the author of the article_Tweak in girl’s marriage age has very well explained the pro’s and con’s of child marriage.Even I strongly believe that by age and knowledge girl’s maturity level increases and enables her to make wiser decisions.child marriage are encouraged in rural,poor and illiterate families.Strong and strict rules must be imposed on people encouraging child marriage.I strongly agree and support that the girl’s marriage age should be increased.

  • Girls are safe and secure.. only When they are studied and become SUCCESSFUL in life … where she can be independent.
    If girls are married early, they have no knowledge to take care of a family, where she faces so many problems mentally and can’t tolerate the burden (of the family) which leads to death automatically (like suicides)…
    So let’s hope for a GOOD and developed
    Country in upcoming days where a boy and girl are treated equally..

  • Excellent narration. You have presented ill effects of child marriages. Legally a girl marry at 18, but some people are violating.
    For this act they are not getting any punishments. Even though govt policy raise the age of marriage for 21 it should be strictly implemented by people. Those who violate rules they should be punished and they hav e to forgo benifits given by the
    Govt. Any way your article is very interestinbg

  • Your article is good.what happens between the age of a woman 18+and 21+ ! She gets more matured sufficient time for higher education hence she will be able to make better decisions in personal and professional life.on the whole marriage 18+is good and 21+is better above that the best

  • Your Article about enhancement of Girlas Marriage .It’s good Artical.Girls acquire knowledge,thinking capacity and maturity also.we are in 21st Century.Every girl has to think Individually whether toget marry at an early age or to continue her education.Especially ,many uneducated people are there in our Country.Firsthave to educate the people about the prose and corns of the early marriage of a girl.Though the Government implement Or Practice it. Change has to come within the people ,especially the remote and rural villages.If it happens ,means attaining the age of 21.,all will happy. This is my opinion Indira .

  • Your Article about enhancement of Girlas Marriage .It’s good Artical.Girls acquire knowledge,thinking capacity and maturity also.we are in 21st Century.Every girl has to think Individually whether toget marry at an early age or to continue her education.Especially ,many uneducated people are there in our Country.Firsthave to educate the people about the prose and corns of the early marriage of a girl.Though the Government implement Or Practice it. Change has to come within the people ,especially the remote and rural villages.If it happens ,means attaining the age of 21.,all will happy. This is my opinion Indira .

  • I am totally agree with authors thought process on raise of girls marriage age from 18 to 21.
    Act amendment should be enhanced in the way to follow strictly by all without fail and ensure girl age should be captured before wedding by online system through either AADHAR or SSC MEMO to avoid loopholes in the system.My appreciation to writer for well versed knowledge on this topic.

  • The authors views are very correct. However the success of law lies in its implementation.Only when the law is successfully implemented the desired results can be seen in the society.

  • A very detailed,comprehensive article. Raising the marriageable age to 21 years would be ideal since a girl would have completed her education and would be able to be financially independent. Education and economic independence are essential for all girls before they are capable of starting a family.

  • Very well written article explaining the pros and cons of making a law around increasing the marriageable age for girl kids. I second with Smt. Indira that it should not be a law but should be more of a policy that brings about the right awareness around the issue.
    Current generation of kids are more mature and well informed and they should not be penalized under the name of law for entering into a wedlock for whatever reasons.
    incentivizing is a great thought as it works with some sects of people and and can yield the expected results.

  • Indira garu,
    Superb presentation and very detailed narrative covering almost all the relevant points.
    I support your views on the need for amending Sarada Act to raise the eligible age for marriage of a girl from 18 to 21.
    Particularly agree with your suggestion on conducting awareness programs in villages , this would indeed be very helpful.
    There should be a change in outlook towards girl’s education, especially in the lower classes.
    Awareness programs and incentive schemes are very good ideas to address the issue.
    I agree with all your views , overall a very nice article.

Indira G.

Indira G.

Indira G is associated with the organisation Pragna Bharati, Hyderabad and is Incharge-Publications. She also contributes to Opindia and other news platforms.

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