Why raising legal age for women's marriage will be a masterstroke
New Delhi, Oct 23: The Government of India has recently constituted a committee to increase the legal age of marriage for women to 21 years, from the current 18 years.
Experts are divided as some say increasing the legal age would be a massive developing hit for the country in future while some experts opposed saying the poorer section will suffer.
How hiking age limit of women will help India to grow
Adolescent women aspire to be educated, paid and exposed to the world. They want to be capable enough to choose where, when and whom to marry. The aspirations of them have grown stronger considering the increasing presence and performance of women in the workforce now.
But because of lack of opportunity and encouragement, many such aspirations get stifled early.
According to National Family Health Survey data, 26.8 per cent of girls are marrying below the legal age nationally.
Most of these marriages occur between the age of 14 and 18. Before completing their childhood, they become mothers of children. Victims of child marriage are deprived of all kinds of child rights. Their access to education is stalled.
Many of them face domestic and sexual violence. Because of severe anaemia and malnutrition, many die during pregnancy or delivery.
A recent SBI Ecowrap report vouched in favour of increasing the age limit saying has enormous benefits on social and economic fronts including lowering Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR), improvement of nutrition levels and more opportunities for women to pursue higher education and careers.
The report said increasing the marriage age will push the mean marriage age higher and will lead to more females doing graduation and hence improving the female labour force participation ratio.
As per its estimations, the percentage of females doing graduation will increase by at least 5-7 percentage points from the current level of 9.8 per cent.
Is marriage the solution?
The emphasis should be more on safety, security, education, training, employment and income generation than marriage at any age.
A legal amendment to hike the age up to whatever the number will not work unless adolescents and youth are self-reliant.
There is a need for change in the mindset of people regarding female education and marriage.
Enabling the environment where girls and women will be nourished should be the need of the hour.
Adolescents in India still do not have a platform to discuss sexuality and physical integrity yet. Increasing understanding of changes in body and mind during that period of time will help them in deciding on choosing partner.
Encouragement for higher education, counselling for career, social and financial support for vulnerable families may enable girls to spend more years in school and colleges which will automatically push the age of marriage.