Topic 02

Topic 02

Topic 02:- Contemporary Women’s Issues

Syllabus:– Role of Women and Women’s Organization, Population and Associated Issues, Poverty and Developmental issues, Urbanization, their problems and their remedies.


Increasing the legal age of marriage will serve twin goals of women empowerment and gender neutrality. Critically analyse. (250 words, (15 marks)


§  Introduction:- Explain the background and proposal for legislation.

§  Body:–  Keyword (‘critically analyse’ – Start with the aim of legislation, Explain the drawbacks of the move of increasing the legal age of marriage.)

§  Conclusion:- Suggest better alternatives than increasing the age of marriage as a way forward.



The Union Cabinet on December 2021, approved the recommendation of the panel headed by Member of Parliament Jaya Jaitly, to raise the legal age of marriage for women from 18 to 21 years, to be on par with the legal age of men. Earlier this year, hundreds of girls from Haryana, which has the lowest sex ratio among states wrote to the Prime Minister (who himself promised the same last year) to review the minimum age of marriage for women. Following which the panel headed by Jaya Jaitly was constituted.

Aim of legislation

  • Gender neutrality demanded male and female minimum age to be the same, as is the common international practice.
  • Early marriages and subsequent early pregnancies were creating hurdles in female health and education, in the form of malnutrition, high infant and maternal mortality rates, and high school or college dropout rates among married girls.
  • Thus aiming to serve both gender neutrality and woman empowerment.


Critical analysis: Drawbacks

  • Child and women’s rights activists, as well as population and family planning experts, have not been in favour of increasing the age of marriage, as it would push a large portion of the population into illegal marriages.
  • As per the National Family Health Survey (2019-2021), 23.3% of women aged 20-24 years married before 18. Though there has been a fall in the rate compared to the early survey, this clearly shows that the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, has not been successful in preventing child marriages, especially among the poor and marginalised sections.
  • Women’s rights activists point out that in India’s patriarchal setting many parents often use the Child Marriage Act to punish their daughters who marry against their wishes or elope to evade forced marriages, domestic abuse, lack of education facilities, etc. So they fear that the change in the age limit will increase parents’ authority over young adults.
  • All laws apply to adult citizens (above 18 years), whether it is right to vote or criminal laws, but for their completely personal choice of marriage, both men and women have to wait to attain 21 years in India.
  • Coercive laws without wide societal support often fail to deliver even when their statement of objects and reasons aims for the larger public good. Even when a quarter of the society is failing to meet the criteria of 18 years of female minimum marriageable age, how can they expect to comply with an increase of 3 years.
  • Through such legislation, the government can be accused of looking for a shortcut in the path of social reform. When a better, but more difficult alternative was to achieve the stated objectives is through creating social awareness about women’s sexual and reproductive health and their inalienable rights, and ensuring that girls are not forced to drop out of school or college.


Way forward

The progressive step in the direction of gender equality would’ve been to lower the age of men to be on par with that of women, as it will be in sync with all other laws as well as the international best practice. Jaya Jaitly panel also made many other key recommendations in matters of education, skill development, sex education, reforming patriarchy, which needs to go with the increase in age of marriage, to fulfill the stated objectives, without which this debatable legislation will be futile. Fulfilling these recommendations before increasing the marriageable age of women will be a more welcome step.





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