Smriti Irani speaks on new marriage bill, says 'it's a decisive step; as a democracy, we are 75 years late'
Some members objected to the introduction of the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, claiming that it violated various personal laws and basic rights. The bill was forwarded to a parliamentary committee for further review.
A bill to make 21 the uniform age of marriage for men and women was submitted in Lok Sabha on Tuesday, with Union Minister Smriti Irani calling it a "decisive move" in its history. At the same time, some experts stressed that legislative changes alone would not solve the problem of early marriages unless the underlying causes are addressed. Some members objected to the introduction of the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, claiming that it violated various personal laws and basic rights. The bill was forwarded to a parliamentary committee for further review.
Experts are divided on raising the marriage age for women, with some arguing that it will go a long way toward empowering women and others emphasising the need to tackle the core reasons of early marriages, such as a lack of education and poverty. Women and Child Development Minister Irani requested the Chair to submit the bill to a standing committee soon after it was introduced. The law wants to raise the legal marriage age for women to 21 years, putting it in line with men's.
According to Irani, the bill also intends to supersede all current laws, including any custom, use, or practise controlling the partners in a marriage. Opposition legislators chastised the administration for introducing the bill hastily and without consulting stakeholders.
In response to the opposition, Irani stated that if the opposition members had listened to her carefully, they would have realised that the administration was ready to submit the measure to the standing committee. She stated that as a democracy, we are 75 years late in giving equal rights to men and women to engage in marriage. Irani reported that 7% of females between the ages of 15 and 18 were pregnant, and around 23% of girls married before 18. She also stated that it is critical to reducing the number of adolescent pregnancies, which are hazardous to women's general health and result in an increase in miscarriages and stillbirths.
The bill's revisions will take effect two years after it obtains Presidential assent to ensure that everyone has an equal chance to participate in joint efforts and inclusive growth, while other sections will take effect immediately.