How religion, edu affect women’s marriage age

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said that the government is likely to change the minimum legal age for women to get married. Some experts have argued that the current minimum age of 18 years is not right for a woman to get married and bear children.
In his Independence Day speech, Modi had announced setting up of a committee “to deliberate on the minimum age for marriage of our daughters.”
The age of marriage of a woman in India varies by state, level of education, families’ financial status, caste and religion, according to National Family Health Survey (2015-16).
Women in central and eastern regions are likely to get married at the youngest age. On the other hand, women in northern and southern states of the country get married relatively later in life. At 25.1 years, age of marriage is highest in J&K. Tap or click on the map below to know the average age of marriage in different states.
When the age of first marriage of women between the age of 25 and 49 years was compiled based on rural and urban areas, it was found that women in villages get married a year and eight months earlier than women in cities. Most likely due to the access to education and work opportunities available in urban areas.
Education is one of the best deterrents against the early marriage of women. Women who have completed 12 years or more of education get married much later, the data revealed.
Women from financially well-off families are likely to get married at least three years later in life compared to those with limited financial means.
When analysed through the prism of religion, data shows that women in the Christian community marry later in life with a median age of 21.6. Hindus with a median age of 18.5 were the religious group that is likely to marry at the earliest.
There wasn’t much change observed in the age of marriage of woman in case of Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and Other Backward Classes. The women in all these three groups married at a much younger age relative to the rest of the society.
Any change in the minimum marriage age will generate a debate on the choice between individual rights and social good enforced by law. In several countries, the minimal legal age of marriage varies depending on whether parental consent is granted or not. In the US, for example, with parental consent, the minimum age of marriage falls to 13 and 14 for women and men. Full list of global minimum age of marriage is here.
Also to be kept in mind is the social practice of child marriage, which is still widespread (but not restricted to) in Rajasthan. These marriages are generally not consummated until the man and the woman attain adulthood. A case could also be made of letting states legislate the minimum age with central government’s law being a model or advisory in nature.


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