Raising women’s marriage age to 21 is a move towards empowerment
India has taken a progressive step to realise Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Goal 5 categorically asks nation-states to formulate policies to achieve gender equality. The Centre recently gave a final shape to this goal by ensuring equality in marriage age by raising the marriageable age for women to 21 years.
India’s Step Ahead
- India had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1993.
- Since 1998, India has had national legislation exclusively on human rights protections drafted in consonance with international instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.
- India decided in 1954 with the Special Marriage Act that age must be one of the basic requisites of a valid marriage.
- It has been established that child marriage exposes women to early pregnancy, malnutrition, and violence (mental, emotional, and physical).
Move towards empowerment
- Protection of women against early and child marriage is a protection of their basic rights and this monumental step will lead to changes in related legislative frameworks to provide a comprehensive rights-based framework for the aadhi aabadi.
- The regressive perception that marriage provides women with social protections and recognition needs to change.
- The equality in marriage age brought about by the Union government will add to its many initiatives to promote women’s education.
- As per the All-India Survey on Higher Education, the enrolment of female students in higher education has increased from 46.2 per cent in 2015-16 to 49 per cent in 2019-20. The overall growth of female student enrolment between 2015-2020 has increased by 18.2 per cent.
- It is notable that from Ujjwala to Mudra to Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana, the largest section of beneficiaries of government schemes has been the women.
- For the first time in Indian politics, we are witnessing remarkable levels of representation of women at crucial decision-making positions from the Union Council of Ministers to party structures. Women’s empowerment will get a further fillip with equality in marriage age.
- The institution of marriage in India is one of the pillars that hold up the customs and norms of society.
- Sometimes, objective equality is the need of the hour. Any justification — biological, social, or data and research-based — cannot justify the inequality in age between men and women to enter into a valid marriage.
- The NITI Aayog task force constituted under the leadership of the Prime Minister has done a commendable job in proposing such a move to empower India’s daughters and sisters.
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