Legal age of women’s marriage; Modi govt acts like Mohalla Uncle: Asaduddin Owaisi

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) supremo and HyAll India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) supremo and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi launched a fresh attack against Narendra Modi government over its proposal to raise the minimum legal age of marriage for women.

In a note shared on social media, Owaisi said that the decision to increase the age of marriage for women to 21 is “typical paternalism that we have come to expect” from the Union government.

The new decision, according to the left body of women, will in fact be counterproductive since raising the age of marriage for girls will result in further targeting of choice marriages.

The Narendra Modi government has cleared a proposal to raise the minimum age of marriage for women from 18 to 21. The decision to raise the age was made during a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. Currently, the minimum age of marriage for men is 21 and 18 for women.

Read the full text of Owaisi’s statement:

Modi government has decided to increase the age of marriage for women to 21. This is typical paternalism that we have come to expect from the govt. 18-year-old men and women can sign contracts, start businesses, choose Prime Ministers and elect MPs and MLAs but not marry?

They can consent to sexual relationships and live-in partnerships but cannot choose their life partners? Just ridiculous.

Both men and women should be allowed to legally marry at 18 as they’re treated as adults by the law for all other purposes.

Child marriages are rampant despite a law. Every fourth woman in India was married before turning 18 but only 785 criminal cases of child marriages were recorded. If child marriages have reduced from before, it’s due to education and economic progress, not criminal law.

There are 12 million kids married before they even turn 10. 84% of these are from Hindu families and only 11% are Muslim. This clearly points to the fact that social reform and government initiatives in education and human development are critical to preventing child marriages.

More than legal age of marriage, it is improved education and better economic prospects for youngsters, that impacts when they marry. 45% of poorest households had child marriages; only 10% of wealthiest households did so.

If Modi was sincere, he would have focused on increasing economic opportunities for women. Yet India is the only country where women’s participation in workforce is dwindling. It fell to 16% in 2020 from 26% in 2005.

It’s essential to improve their educational outcomes to ensure autonomous decision-making. What has the govt done to improve education for girls? 79% of ₹446.72 Beti Bachao Beti Padhao budget was spent on adverts. You want us to believe that this govt has sincere intentions?

Men and women are treated as adults at 18 for most critical things. Why is marriage any different? The legal age is not really a criteria; the essential goal must be to ensure education, economic progress and human development.

Supreme Court recognised right to privacy as a fundamental right for adults. The autonomy to take decisions concerning oneself are critical to this fundamental right. This includes the right to choose a partner and the right to decide if/when to have children.

In many US states, marriage age is as low as 14. In UK and Canada, it’s 16. In NZ, 16-19-year-olds can marry with parental consent. These nations improved human development of young people so that they can take INFORMED decisions rather than fixing arbitrary age restrictions.

In contrast, Modi govt acts like a Mohalla Uncle. Deciding what we eat, who/when we marry, what God we worship, etc.

Ironically, govt proposes 18 as age of consent in Data Bill. If 18-year olds can choose how their data is used, why can’t they choose their life partners?

It’s time to stop thinking of young people as children in perpetuity. They should be allowed the space to think and decide for themselves. This is also why I’ve proposed a private members’ bill that will allow 20-year-olds to become MPs and MLAs.


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