Don’t raise legal age of girls’ marriage to 21: Odisha body to parliamentary panel

What is the news?

The Odisha State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (OSCPCR) has urged the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, Women, Youth and Sports to consider not raising the legal age of marriage of girls to 21. It instead urged the Committee to keep 18 as the minimum legal age for both boys and girls.

Must read: Raising the legal age of marriage for women – Explained, pointwise
What are the concerns raised by OSCPCR regarding raising the legal age of marriage of girls?

First, the proposed amendment would redefine the word ‘child’ to bring the age of marriage for both men and women at par, i.e. 21 for both boys and girls. This will have an overriding effect over every other law, custom, usage or practice.

Second, Legislation in isolation would never be able to stop child marriage unless there is a socio-behavioural change among the parents and community.

Third, factors like poverty and distress, patriarchal norms and practices, lack of opportunity for schooling and employment were still contributing to the prevalence of child marriage in a major way.

Fourth, If legislated, there would be no space to provide support to a child bride/groom between the ages of 19 and 21, if rescued from child marriage.

Fifth, Acts like POCSO have restricted consensual sex up to the age of 18. This implies that someone may engage in sexual activity after 18 but won’t be able to marry till 21. (That) will create new sets of issues like increasing numbers of unwed mothers and foeticide thereafter.

What are the suggestions provided by OSCPCR?

There was a need to strengthen families by providing appropriate livelihood opportunities. Juvenile Justice Care and Protection Act and the Integrated Child Protection Scheme could be extended to such vulnerable children only up to the age of 18.

Note: Currently the beneficiaries under the ICDS Scheme are children in the age group of 0-6 years, pregnant women and lactating mothers.

Source: This post is based on the article “Don’t raise legal age of girls’ marriage to 21: Odisha body to parliamentary panel” published in Down to Earth on 5th Jan 2022.

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