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Odisha child rights group opposes proposal to raise marriage age for women to 21

Odisha child rights group opposes proposal to raise marriage age for women to 21
The Odisha State Commission for Protection of Child Rights says raising the marriage age for women to 21 will create a new set of problems.

Culture

Odisha child rights group opposes proposal to raise marriage age for women to 21

The Odisha State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (OSCPCR) believes raising the marriage age for women to 21 will create a new set of problems. It will increase foeticide and unwed mothers. As such, OSCPCR has opposed the legislation to raise the marriage age of women to 21.




Sandhyabati Pradhan, the chairperson of OSCPCR, said the law will leave people rescued from child marriages in the 19-21 age group in the lurch. She highlighted that the existing laws only support vulnerable children up to the age of 18 years.

“Acts like Juvenile Justice Care and Protection Act and schemes like Integrated Child Protection Scheme have scope to extend support to vulnerable children only up to the age of 18. In such circumstances, there will be no space to provide support to a child bride or groom between the age of 19 to 21 if rescued from child marriage,” Pradhan wrote in a letter to Vinay P. Sahasrabuddhe, chairperson of the parliamentary standing committee on education, women, children, youth and sports that is examining the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021.

The chairperson underlined that laws such as the child sex abuse law, Pocso only bars consensual sex up to the age of 18. Pradhan said this implies that someone may have a sexual act after 18, but won’t be able to marry till 21 which will create new sets of issues like increasing unwed mothers and foeticide thereafter. She highlighted the fact that change of legislation in isolation will never be able to stop child marriages unless there is a socio-behavioral change among parents and the community.

“The National Crime Record Bureau data says that only 785 cases have been registered under Prohibition of Child Marriage in 2020, which 523 in 2019 and 501 in 2018. On the other hand, 23.3% of girls are marrying before the legal age as captured by NFHS-5 (National Family and Health Survey,” Pradhan said.

The OSCPCR highlighted that distress, poverty, patriarchal norms and practices, lack of opportunity for schooling, and employment etc contribute to the prevalence of child marriage to a large extent.


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The central government, on December 16, 2021, decided to raise the legal marriage age for women from 18 to 21 years. A bill to amend the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) 2006 was introduced in Parliament. The government wants to bring about this law as it is in favor of the holistic and healthy development of young women. It wants to prevent early pregnancy and protect the health of women.


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