Recently, there have been several discussions on increasing the minimum legal age for marriage for Women to 21. There have been a lot of debate about the said topic. Some are supportive of the decision but most of them are against the decision. It is important that we understand some pro’s and con’s about the same. In Educated Urban families 26-28 years is the average age of girls getting married. Shaadi wali Aunties will have an eye on you from the age you attain puberty and will have specific opinions on your every action, right from your choice of dresses to creating a hungama when you talk to a neighbourhood boy.
The biggest debate was that women are free to Vote by the age of 18 but are not allowed to get married till they reach 21.
Today if a person wants a decent job, he needs to be atleast a graduate, whether it is a man or a woman. To be frank Graduation has kind of become a basic education for any job. When I was in Law School, a Classmate of mine, was married at the age of 19 and a half. Luckily for her, her in-laws were all lawyers and helped her pursue law post marriage and even after a kid she was still practising. But not all girls are so lucky.
There is a saying in our family, that girls need to be educated and have a decent source of income so that tomorrow God Forbid if there is any difficulty she should be able to support herself and her family. When I talk about difficulty, it does not necessarily mean divorce, Financial Difficulty, Bad Health, Job Loss, Loss in Business, Death of Spouse can happen to any one unexpectedly. In such circumstance, a woman should be in a position to support her family, emotionally and Financially because we all need to be practical today.
When a girl gets married at the age of 21, it gives her a couple of years more to understand the world through her own eyes. Even though today certain women are still forced to see the world through the eyes of the family members. The idea behind increasing legal age is to reduce child marriages. Though there are a lot of arguments about how increasing the legal age from 18 to 21 will barely have any impact on reducing child marriage.
I remember having a client once, who had come to me with her parents. She belonged to lower middle class category but despite their financial condition, the girl’s parents gave huge importance to her education. She eloped with her boyfriend the day she turned 18 because she was madly in love. Within the next few days she came to know about his true colours (he was unemployed at 25 and used to hit her). Luckily for her, her parents intervened and got her divorced and educated her. Today she has completed her graduation and is working as a medical technician in one of the reputed hospitals of the city.
Perhaps if the marriage age was 21 in that case, then a lot of girls would have got opportunity to at least complete their graduation and think about working and being financially independent for a year. Even if her family does not allow her to study further, it will give her sufficient time to think about an alternative method of being financially Independent. Financial Independence of women is very important for a family to survive today because of the rising inflation.
Maturity is a subjective topic. In some cases girls as young as 14 may be mature and in some cases women as old as 40 may also be immature to handle the family. Some of them mature due to circumstances and some of them just refuse to mature. When I am talking about early marriages, even the rich and famous get married at an early age sometimes because they are worried somebody may marry their children just for the sake of money. So they fix the marriage of their children before hand. So tomorrow if this law comes into effect, it is going to help majority of the people.
The other argument that a lot of social activist made was that instead of increasing the legal age for marriage, the government should provide a lot of scholarships and encourage women to study further. There are good Scholarships available today, but in our Indian Society even today, women are just subjected to Kitchen. Even though we are trying to change the mindset of people, we also need to give an opportunity to women to showcase their talent. Education will give you knowledge but increasing that age of marriage gives you 1 % more chance of showcasing your talent and moving ahead in life.
Despite increasing the marriage age, there would be a lot of people who want to get their daughters married before this law is implemented and there will be a lot of rush marriages. But think about the lives of a number of girls that will be changed in future. We have to change the mindset of people in the society, that is what we are trying to do since many years and we will continue to do so in future as well.
These are my thoughts on increasing the age limit for women to get married. Do let me know your thoughts in the comment section.
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