New Law of Marriage in India 2021

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In June 2020, the Union Ministry for Women and Child Development established a 10-member committee, headed by Jaya Jaitly, to focus on issues related to the age of childbearing, the need to reduce the maternal mortality rate, improving nutritional levels, and other related issues. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke in his Independence Day 2020 speech about his government`s plan to raise the legal age of marriage for girls. In December 2020, the Jaitly Committee presented its recommendation to raise the legal age of marriage for girls from 18 to 21. In 1978, the government last raised the age of marriage for girls between the ages of 15 and 18. This was achieved by amending the Child Marriage Restriction Act of 1929, also known as the Sharda Act. In line with the recommendations of the Jaitly Commission, the Union Government has now decided to further raise the age of marriage for women. Proposed legislation to raise the legal age of marriage for girls to 21 can have several harmful consequences: Although illegal, child marriage has broad social sanction. This is shown by the recently released fifth series of the National Family Health Survey, which found that nearly one-quarter of women aged 20 to 24 were married 18 years ago. The decline is marginal compared to the last round of the survey, which was conducted in 2015-2016, despite the fact that the existing child marriage law has been in place for more than four decades. Although there was an impressive decline in child marriage between 2005-`06 and 2015-`16, this could be due to better educational opportunities and factors other than the law.

Data on the maternal mortality rate and the infant mortality rate show that both indicators have improved in the country. The national maternal mortality rate was 113 per lakh of live births in 2016-2018, an 80% decrease from the 1990 maternal mortality ratio (556). [14] The infant mortality rate decreased by 69%, from 114 in 1990 to 35 per 1,000 births in 2019-21.1 In March 2021, the Minister of Women and Child Development responded to a question from Lok Sabha that there was no credible data to suggest that child marriage was the leading cause of IMR and MMR. [15] Various factors that influence motherhood, such as health, nutrition, and lack of medical facilities, can contribute to IMT and MMR problems. For example, several studies suggest that anemia is one of the main reasons for elevated MMR. [16],[17] According to the latest NFHS-5 survey (2019-2021), 57% of women aged 15 to 49 are anemic.1 While supporting the proposal to raise the legal age of marriage for women from 18 to 21, senior congressional leader P. Chidambaram proposed that the law not be enacted until 2023. The coming year, he says, should be used by the government to educate people about the benefits of marriage only after the age of 21. Despite a Supreme Court ruling mandating marriage registration, state governments have done little to implement the ruling. Governments should develop a mechanism to ensure that all marriages (including civil, religious and customary unions), births and deaths are compulsorily registered through a system of monitoring marriages and age of marriage.

In addition, action should be taken against those who allow and facilitate child marriage in rural areas. However, she is not alone, in India, thousands of people are forced to marry at an early age. Sometimes violently, against their will, apparently to ward off bad influences or not to miss the opportunity to get a “perfect” game. Vinoj Manning, CEO of the Ipas Foundation for Development, says that if women can vote at 18, why do they have to choose their life partner at 21? “If you look at all the laws, 18 is the limit, why do we increase marriage to 21? This contradicts all existing legal rights in the country. From the age of consent to the right to choose an abortion, Indian laws have allowed women aged 18 and over to decide for themselves. Single women under the age of 18 need the consent of their legal guardian to have an abortion due to an unwanted pregnancy. The government should also review all of these laws before implementing this law,” Manning said. “I would like to argue that women`s equality in our country must be seen at the age of marriage. Citing different marriage laws of different faiths, I am taking the floor to introduce the amending law,” Minister of Women and Child Development Smriti Irani told parliament. While several commentators welcomed the recent initiative to unify the age of marriage for men and women, they questioned the need to raise the age of women to 21, rather than setting it at 18, as has been highlighted in recommendations over the years. Another point to take into account is that in our country, where the age of majority is 18, we can vote at 18, get a driver`s license, buy real estate, sign contracts and open a bank account at 18. Another age of consent is also 18, so what about consensual relationships between adolescents between the ages of 18 and 21? In our country, where premarital and non-marital sex is taboo, the absolute ban on marriages up to the age of 21 will lead to more cases of absconding.

This leads to the registration of FIRs and personal disputes. Love marriages are criminalized. It will increase patriarchal violence against women who marry between the ages of 18 and 21. In India, where intercaste, interreligious and generally romantic marriages are despised and lead to social boycotts or even “honour killings”, parents and community members can enforce such laws against rebellious children. There are contradictions between the minimum age of marriage and certain Supreme Court decisions. In 2018, the Supreme Court declared the right to marry part of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution. [6] It held that the right can only be withdrawn by legislation that is substantially and procedurally just, equitable and reasonable. [6] In another 2018 case, the Court ruled that when two adults choose each other as their life partner, it is a manifestation of their choice, recognized in Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution.

[7] The bill restricts the right to marry before the age of 21. The question is whether this restriction for persons between the ages of 18 and 21 meets the reasonable standards of restrictions explained by the courts. In general, there must be three criteria for any restriction of fundamental rights by law: a public objective, where the restriction is related to that objective, and the absence of a less intrusive means of achieving the aim. [8] According to the 2019-2021 National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), 23% of women aged 20 to 24 were married before the age of 18. [1] This number has decreased significantly over the years, from 47% in NFHS-3 (2005-06) to 27% in NFHS-4 (2015-16) and 23% in the latest survey. [2],[3] In India, the practice of child marriage was first banned in 1929 by the Child Marriage Restriction Act of 1929. The 1929 Act prohibits the marriage of girls under the age of 14 and boys under the age of 18. This law was amended in 1978 to raise the minimum age to 18 for women and 21 for men. The Child Marriage Prohibition Act 2006 replaced the 1929 law with the same minimum age limits. The Child Marriage Prohibition (Amendment) Bill 2021 aims to raise the minimum age of marriage for women to 21. The bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Education, Women, Children, Youth and Sport on December 21, 2021.

[11]. Crime in India 2020, National Crime Records Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs, September 2021. The women`s wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) said the introduction of a marriageable age would not produce the desired results. “These issues need to be addressed with public awareness and discussed more broadly,” said Rashtriya Sevika Samiti. The experts also pointed out that in a country where caste-interfaith marriages can result in death, such laws are often used by parents against rebellious sons and daughters. This new era of marriage could further populate crime, dragging more desperate women and families into the downward spiral of police and courtrooms. On 22 December 2021, the Child Marriage Prohibition (Amendment) Act 2021, which aims to raise the legal age of marriage for women from 18 to 21, was sent to a standing parliamentary committee for further consideration. They are confined to the household and are neither trained nor expected to enter the labour market. Thus, they are seen by families as a financial burden until marriage, and early marriage is not only in line with tradition, but is also more economically feasible. The risk of pregnancy outside marriage – which can jeopardize marriage prospects and make the girl a financial burden indefinitely – makes child marriage appear a solution, not a problem, even for many Indian communities. Any approach to ending child marriage must aim to protect the rights of girls, especially those at risk of early marriage. We need to think beyond punitive measures and laws and change the patriarchal socio-economic system that fosters child marriage.

The 2006 law allows a person married before the minimum age of marriage to apply for annulment of the marriage. The bill raises the minimum age for marriage for women to 21. This means that a person married between the ages of 18 and 21 can also apply for annulment of the marriage. All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chairman Asaduddin Owasi called the bill “ridiculous” and said women and men would be legally allowed to marry at the age of 18. If they are treated as adults by law for all other purposes, why not for marriage? In a series of tweets, Owaisi criticized the government for its “paternalism.” Ban on marriages between the ages of 18 and 21 To put women on an equal footing with men, the NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided to raise the legal age of marriage for women from 18 to 21.