Trinamool Congress MP Sushmita Dev is the only woman in the 31-member parliamentary panel assigned to examine the bill which seeks to raise the legal age of marriage for women to 21.
The Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha during the winter session. It was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, Women, Children, Youth and Sports.
The bill seeks to increase the legal age of marriage of women from 18 to 21.
According to the members’ list of the parliamentary standing committee, led by senior BJP leader Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, available on the Rajya Sabha website, TMC MP Sushmita Dev is the only woman among the 31 members.
When contacted, Sushmita Dev reportedly said that it would have been better if there were more women MPs in the panel.
“I am the only female member in the Standing Committee which would be looking into the bill, but I will try my best to ensure that the Chairman of the Committee listens to every voice across the board,” Sushmita Dev said.
The TMC MP further added, “I do wish there were more women MPs but I must say that my leader, Mamata Banerjee, has done it and sent a woman MP to this committee which is going to be considering the bill and I am open to listening to anybody.”
NCP MP Supriya Sule voiced similar sentiment and said there should have been more women MPs in the panel which will deliberate on issues related to women.
However, Supriya Sule added that the chairman has the power to invite people before the panel. So for more inclusive and wider discussions, he can invite other women MPs.
At present, the minimum age of marriage for men is 21 and for women is 18. The bill seeks to increase the legal age of marriage of women to 21.
The proposal to increase the marriage age of women was recommended by the task force headed by Jaya Jaitley in NITI Aayog. Pediatrician VK Paul was also a part of the task force.
Besides them, the secretaries of the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Women and Child Development, Higher Education, School Education and Literacy Mission and the Ministry of Justice and Law were also a part of the task force.
The task force was constituted in June 2020 and gave its report in December the same year. The task force had said that the minimum age of women at the time of giving birth to their first child should be 21.
The proposed law will apply to all communities in the country and, once enacted, will supersede existing marriage and personal laws.
Accordingly, the government will bring amendments to seven personal laws the Indian Christian Marriage Act; the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act; the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act; the Special Marriage Act; the Hindu Marriage Act; and the Foreign Marriage Act.
The introduction of the Bill was opposed by some members who contended that the move infringed upon several personal laws in violation of fundamental rights and demanded that it be referred to a parliamentary panel for greater scrutiny.