There has been an increase in “panic” or “misery” marriages in India since the government proposed raising the legal marriage age from 18 to 21.
Teenage girls are rushing to weddings by parents who are worried that the 2021 child marriage bill (amendment) will become law and parents will either have to wait for their daughters to gather or face the wrath of the law.
As a result, they are willing to pay three times the tuition or are desperately looking for suitors, while the priests rush in and some weddings take place in the houses as the wedding venues are full.
A parliamentary committee is considering a bill that was hastily introduced by parliament last month with minimal debate aimed at increasing gender equality and ending child marriage.
Smriti Irani, who introduced the bill, described the decision to raise the legal age as a “decisive step” for India. Despite the country’s conservative nature, women still marry at a young age and child marriage is common, especially in rural areas.
Public uproar and hasty weddings
About 200,000 child marriages were prevented from the beginning between 2015 and 2020, according to the minister, while the latest National Family Health Survey, for 2019-2021, revealed that 6.8% of teenage girls aged 15 to 19 were pregnant on era of research.
According to the data, 23.3% of women aged 20-24 got married before the age of 18, which is illegal. About 635,000 households participated in the survey.
The bill has created public unrest despite the facts and the difficult lives of many young women behind them.
Some critics have suggested that raising the marriage age could be “a recipe for disaster” and punishing young women.
“The new law will restrict the rights of adult women while depriving them of their sexual rights to marry at the time of their choice. “When 18-year-olds can vote, drive, represent their country at the Olympics and play in movies, why not get married at 18?” asked Pratibha Kapur, an activist in Delhi.
Kapoor noted that the bill also seeks to amend other personal laws – such as the Indian Christian Marriage Act, the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, the Shariah Law Enforcement Act, the Special Marriage Act, the on Hindu Marriage and Marriage Law Abroad – in order to achieve uniformity of marriage age between religions.
Several states have already seen hasty wedding ceremonies as a result of the proposed legislation. Parents have been trying to buy wedding dresses, book priests or clergy since the brides had to get married this year or next.
Many parents who have not yet found a match for their daughters are desperate to find one.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.