The proposal to push the minimum age of marriage for women from 18 to 21 was cleared by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday. In his Independence Day speech last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had mentioned the proposal was under evaluation.

At present, the legal age for women is 18. Following the cabinet’s approval, the government will amend the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, Special Marriage Act, and the Hindu Marriage Act. Once implemented, the minimum age of marriage will be 21 for both men and women.

The proposal was submitted to NITI Aayog in December 2020 by the Centre’s task force, headed by Jaya Jaitly. It mentioned that a woman must be at least 21 years old at the time of her first pregnancy and that a delay in marriages has a positive financial, social, and health impact on families, society, and children.

The committee was set up in June 2020 by the Ministry of Women and Child Development and also included
Dr. V K Paul of NITI Aayog and Secretaries of the WCD, Health and Education ministries and the Legislative Department.

In addition to the discussion regarding the legal age, the team called for a comprehensive public awareness campaign to encourage social acceptance of the decision. It also stated that sex education should be formalised and introduced in schools.