As the Centre deliberates on raising the minimum marriageable age for women in India, a report released by SBI has said that such a move would result in “enormous” social and economic gains for the country.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that “there is an important deliberation going on to decide what the ideal age of marriage for daughters should be”. A committee is studying the matter and a decision will be taken after it submits its report.
Currently, the minimum age of marriage for women is 18 years, while it is 21 years for men. Indications are that it will be increased to 21 for women, too.
According to the SBI report, increasing in marriage age will “enormous benefits on social and economic fronts for women.”
Increasing the marriageable age will have multiple short-term and long-term benefits for women. In the short-term, maternal deaths can be reduced and nutritional levels of women can be improved, the report titled, ‘Increasing the legal age of women marriage: A dominant strategy for societal good, financially empowering women’, authored by the bank’s chief economic advisor, said. In the long-term, it will ensure more girls go to college and will enable women to achieve greater financial independence, the report said.
Available data makes it clear that “the working age population increases with high marriage age”, Ghosh said.
He said it is likely that the committee recommends raising the marriageable age of women to 21 years, the same as for men. This could help increase the number of women who graduate by 7 percentage points from the current 9.8%.
Any such decision will have “other legal and psychological benefits also”, Ghosh said. “Any ground-level change will only happen when the psyche of people alter.”
According to the report, 35% of females are married off before they turn 21 years old. It termed the situation grave in some states. “Surprisingly, the situation in West Bengal is the worst across all states with the mean marriage age only 20.9 years and almost 47% of females getting married before the age of 21 years, even worse than Bihar and Rajasthan,” according to the report.