Friday, December 8, 2023

Need to fix ‘right age’ of Marriage for girls

By Lalit Garg

There have been discussions in India about the minimum age to marry these days. So far in our law, the minimum age is 21 for boys and 18 for girls for marriage. According to Child Marriage Prevention Act 2006, marriage at an early age is illegal, for which there is a provision for a sentence of two years of jail and a fine of one lakh rupees. Woman life has also been the victim of age discrimination regarding marriage, having faced many struggles. To end this discrimination, now the BJP government is considering raising the marriage age limit for girls to 21, this is a revolutionary step to ensure that girls are given a fair place in the family and society as well as with full dignity. Girls will get an opportunity to live a safe life. Girls will get the open sky to suit their abilities with the protection of their fundamental qualities; she will be able to create her independent identity, an open horizon of feminine quality. Prime Minister Narendra Modi indicated this in the past. From these indications, it seems that the government will soon decide to change the minimum age of marriage of girls.

Cultural, social, family and life values have also changed due to change of time. The integrity of the family is getting fragmented. Women are becoming more victims of harassment and exploitation than before. Talking about the last four-five decades, as the chances of women moving out of their homes to go to school, college and jobs organize and achieve their rights, their efforts also intensified. Atrocities on women within the boundary walls of families are also increasing. Sexual harassment is a part of this larger process. Our traditional orthodox thinking still considers the woman to be of secondary status and goes to any extent with the view of exploiting and torturing her.

Minimum marriage age of girls plays a big role in this. Today, even though no one speaks openly in favour of child marriage, does not advocate it, but it is also undisputed that child marriages are happening in large numbers in the country. Despite the strict laws made after the Nirbhaya incident, the incidence of female rape and assault has increased rather than reduced. Therefore, the basic question is whether changes in the law are the right and effective way to stop them. Why have marriages lead to child marriages despite strict laws? Why are the incidents of female atrocities and their identities increasing?

On the occasion of Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi while addressing the nation from the ramparts of Red Fort, there was a talk of raising the marriage age of girls to 21 years like boys. Although this debate has been going on for a long time, after Modi’s statements it is being discussed from different angles. There is also a discussion on why the minimum age should be different for a boy and a girl to be married? The National Human Rights Commission has recommended in 2018 that the minimum age limit for marriage in the country should be legally the same. The Law Commission has stated 10 years ago in its 2008 report that boys and girls should have the same marriage age. However, it was recommended to increase the minimum age of both to 18 years instead 21. Their argument behind this is that in 18 years, young men and women are accepted as adults and they also get the right to vote, so why question the eligibility to choose their spouse?

It seems strange and contradictory that a boy was able to choose the government, but could not be able to choose a life partner? But currently the debate is focused on increasing the age limit and the need is also being felt acutely. Because the liberation from the double mentality towards women and the gross neglect of male society can bring positive results by increasing the age limit of marriage, there will also be a decrease in girls’ education and maternal deaths. The questions of education and employment of girls are also related to the age of marriage. Given these approaches, increasing the minimum age limit of marriage is relevant. It is also important that even though the old criterion of morality has passed from our hands, the stigma of gender-inequality remains.

Like every old society, there are some contradictory currents in our modern society such that there is no respect for women, but those societies pretend to be female worshipers. Sadly, in the Navratras we sing the story of the creation of goddesses to kill the demons whom the gods used to kill, but in our everyday life we forget the ethos of considering women as normal human beings. . In these societies, the existence of girls comes under threat due to marriage at a young age, she never lives for herself, yet her breath is on the watch and identity is at stake. She participates in everyone’s happiness and sorrow, but at this young age she has to suffer her grief alone. She lives by understanding everyone’s mind-set, but no one cares to understand her mind. The meaning of his life is considered to accept the subordination of man, no matter how capable and intelligent he is. The question is, how much will she pay to be a woman? How  long will it be considered a woman’s ideal to consider her husband as God and tolerate the physical and mental tortures and assaults provided by her? Therefore, if the Prime Minister is active to increase the minimum age limit of marriage, then it should be welcomed.

It is well known that since 1978 in India, the minimum age limit of marriage is 21 years for boys and 18 years for girls. Despite this, out of all married women in the age group of 20 to 24 years, the percentage of women who were married before the prescribed age was 54 in 1992-93, 50 in 1998-99 and 47 in 2005-06. The speed of this kind of ant came in the decade of 2005-06 to 2015-16, it is not due to strict implementation of the law but because of the new thinking and livelihood of girls about their self-awareness, career and education. Now the girls themselves have started opposing getting married early, while the family members are getting the idea that if the girl is over-educated, her mind will get spoiled and she will start making her own decisions. It is evident that at one stage all the issues seem to be mixed with each other. In such a situation, if changing the minimum age limit of marriage helps a little in raising awareness on this question in the society, then it will be considered to be the reason for the well-being and progress of the society, this will prevent the atrocities, neglect, torture on women. A new sun shine of good luck for females will rise.   

(Lalit Garg is a Journalist, columnist, writer and member of Rajbhasha samiti, Ministry of Home Affairs. He can be reached at [email protected])

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