Indian Government mulls to revise women’s legal age for marriage from 18 to 21. In February, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had, during the budget session 2020-2021 had announced that this decision is important and will be looked into again in the span of the next six months.
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 Jaitley and will have among members V K Paul, Member Health, NITI Aayog.
The task force will examine the matter related to motherhood and marriage at an early age. Some other issues that task force will examine are: 1. The age of motherhood.
2. Imperative of lowering maternal mortality rate. 3. Improvement of nutritional levels.
4. Other related issues.
The History of law regarding minimum age of marriage! 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 marriage with a girl under 12 invalid. The law prescribed a minimum age of marriage to essentially outlaw child marriage and prevent abuse of minors.
People who demanded Social Reforms were unhappy with these reforms and pressurized British government and Indian National Congress for making some strict law on child marriage.
Finally 1929 Imperial Legeslative Council passes an act named as Child Marriage Restraint Act. This act set 14 and 18 years as the minimum age of marriage for women and men respectively. The law was popularly known as Sarda Act after its sponsor Harbilas Sarda, a judge and a member of Arya Samaj.
About Sarda Act!
The Sarda Act was the first social reform issue taken up by an organised women’s group of India. This group pressured many politician into supporting the act by picketing their delegations, holding placards and shouting slogans. They believed that with the passing of this act, it would show the world that India is serious about Social reforms.
Was the law implement?
The Act remained a dead letter during the Colonial period of British rule in India. British did not want to earn the displeasure of the communal elements among the Hindus and Muslims.
Post Independence another act was passed The Special Marriage Act, 1954. In 1978 Sarda Act was amended, Since then, the minimum legal age of marriage has been 18 for women and 21 for men. On 2006 to stop Child Marriage a special act was passed named as Prohibition of Child Marriage Act,2006 which prescribed 18 and 21 years as the minimum age of consent for marriage for women and men respectively. Strict Punishment.