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Marriage and parenthood
Policy paper
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Raising the Age of Marriage in India: Legislation Alone Will Not be Enough to Improve the Lives of Young Women and Their Children

Following the May 2022 parliamentary debate around raising the legal age of marriage for females in India from 18 to 21, a new proposed bill aims to improve the health and well-being of young women and their children, reduce the incidence of teenage pregnancies and support women to secure better education and work opportunities. Currently the legal marrying age for males is 21, so this proposed change would create gender parity in law.

Young Lives has been following 3,000 young people in India (in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana) from childhood into early adulthood, generating in-depth finding on early marriage. This brief summarises these findings and argues that whilst improving gender parity in law would be a seismic shift for a country where the majority of young women currently get married between the ages of 18 and 21, legislative change alone is not enough to achieve the intended positive impacts.

Instead, the authors argue that policymakers need adopt a broad, holistic approach which responds to local circumstances and which tackles the underlying causes of early marriage and parenthood with measures that alleviate poverty, address prevailing gender norms, invest in quality education for girls, open up decent jobs for young women, protect vulnerable girls to make empowered marriage and fertility decisions and involve boys and young men to tackle gender inequality and patriarchal discrimination. 

Young Lives will continue to analyse the impact of early marriage on the lives of young people in our study as we take forward new research in the coming year.  Follow Young Lives on Twitter @yloxford, Facebook and LinkedIn for more news on this topic.