Decision to Raise Women’s Marriage Age to 21 Upsetting for Some: PM Modi’s Jibe at Rivals

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Prayagraj, Dec 21 (PTI): Taking a swipe at his rivals, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said the government is trying to raise the marriage age of women to 21 so that they can have time to study and progress, but this has upset some.

Addressing a rally here in Uttar Pradesh, were assembly elections are due early next year, he also said 25 lakh of the 30 lakh houses given under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana are registered in the name of women in the state.

This shows the government’s commitment to “sacha (true) empowerment of women”, Modi said.

“We are trying to increase the age of marriage of women to 21 years so that they can have time to study and progress. The country is taking this decision for its daughters. Everyone is seeing who is having problems with this,” he said.

Samajwadi Party (SP) MPs Shafiqur Rehman Barq and ST Hasan had made adverse comments over the Centre’s move to increase the legal age of marriage.

SP president Akhilesh Yadav had, however, distanced himself from the statements of his party’s Sambhal and Moradabad MPs, saying the SP is progressive and the views expressed are personal.

On Tuesday, the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, that seeks to fix 21 years as the uniform age of marriage for women and men was introduced in Lok Sabha. Soon after its introduction, the government urged the Chair to refer it to a standing committee.

The bill seeks to amend 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.

In an apparent dig at the SP’s rule in the state, Modi said, “Five years ago the mafia ruled the roost on the roads of Uttar Pradesh, and the worst sufferers were our sisters and daughters”.

“It was difficult for them to move out on roads and go to schools and colleges. But chief minister Yogi Adityanath has put these hooligans in their right place,” he said.

The SP government in the state from 2012 to 2017 was succeeded by the BJP government.

Hailing the Adityanath government, Modi said, “Now in Uttar Pradesh there is security, rights and opportunities (for women). I am confident that with the blessings of our mothers and sisters, no one will push the state back into darkness again.”

“Come let us take an oath from this pious land of Prayagraj that the state will progress,” he said.

Schemes like the Mukhyamantri Kanya Sumangala Yojana are becoming a great medium of trust for the rural poor and girls, Modi said after transferring crores of rupees to accounts of over one lakh girls in the state.

He also interacted with banking correspondent (BC)-sakhis, women self help groups preparing supplementary nutritious food manufacturing units, and beneficiaries of the Kanya Sumangala scheme

“Now with the help of BC-sakhis, banks have reached villages. Those who have to withdraw money from direct benefit schemes now do not have to leave villages. For those who think that this is not a big task, I want to tell them that the Uttar Pradesh government has given responsibility of transaction of Rs 75,000 crore to BC-sakhis,” he said.

“More the transactions in a village, more will be their income. Many of these BC-sakhis are those who did not have bank accounts but now they have the power of digital banking,” Modi said.

Criticising previous governments, he said now the pace of the state’s development cannot be stopped by anyone.

Now, women have decided that they will not let previous governments come again. The security and honour given to women in the “double engine (BJP) government is unprecedented”, the Prime Minister said.

Formation of BJP’s government in 2014 has put new ‘confidence and energy’ in women, he said, adding that schemes like ‘beti padhao, beti bachao’ have succeeded in creating awareness and preventing sex-selective abortions.

The government is focused on immunisation of pregnant women, institutional deliveries and nutrition during pregnancy, he said.

Modi said over two crore women were benefited by the Matra Vandan Scheme, in which Rs 50,00 is given in accounts of pregnant women.

To ensure school dropout rate of girls decreases, he said separate toilets were constructed and sanitary pads distributed free of cost.

“We have opened account of girls under the Sukanya Samridhi Scheme and interest rates were kept high. Crores of toilets were made under ‘Swachh Bharat scheme’, free gas connections were given under Ujjwala scheme and under Ayushman scheme free treatment facility up to Rs 5 lakh is being provided,” he said.

He lamented that for decades, house and property were considered as the right of men only

“In families where there was no property in the name of women for generations, they now have a house in their name. This is true women empowerment. In village ‘swamitva scheme’ is underway in which property papers were given to house owners and women are being given priority,” he said.

“The state government will do mapping of village houses and give property papers to women,” Modi said.

The Prime Minister transferred Rs 1,000 crore to bank accounts of self help groups (SHGs) to benefit around 16 lakh women.

Under the Mudra Scheme, 70 per cent beneficiaries are women, he said and termed SHGs as “rashtra sahayata samooh” and women there as “champions” of ‘atmanirbhar bharat’.

He said the help given to SHGs after 2014 has been increased 13 times and added restrictions for women to work in mines have been lifted and doors of ‘sainik schools’ have been opened for women.

Modi earlier paid tribute to doyen of Hindi literature Acharya Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi on his death anniversary.

He released over Rs 20 crore to over 1 lakh beneficiaries of the ‘Mukhya Mantri Kanya Sumangala Scheme’, which provides conditional cash transfer to a girl child at different stages of her life and also laid the foundation stone of 202 supplementary nutrition manufacturing units in 43 districts.

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