Maharashtra MP Priyanka Chaturvedi has raised concerns over the make-up of a committee that is looking into a bill for raising the legal age of marriage of women from 18 to 21. In a letter to Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu, Ms Chaturvedi said that the committee of 31 MPs deliberating on a bill of huge significance for women has only one woman member -West Bengal MP Sushmita Dev.
“I am writing this letter to you as a concerned Member of Parliament. In the winter session of the parliament, a crucial bill impacting the lives of women across the country was introduced- The Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill. This bill seeks to raise the legal age of marriage from 18 to 21 for women. After being introduced in the Lok Sabha it was sent to the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, Women, Children, Youth and Sports. However, the committee has only one female Member of Parliament as a Member,” Ms Chaturvedi said in the letter.
“This is disheartening to note that a bill so pertinent to women and the Indian society will be deliberated upon in a committee where the representation is highly skewed. Therefore, I request you to ensure that there should be more representation and participation of women in the discussion around bill that concerns the issues faced by women in India. It is of utmost importance that the interests of all stakeholders are taken into account and that voices of all, especially women are heard and understood by the committee,” Ms Chaturvedi, who is also a Shiv Sena leader, said in the letter.
A 31 Member Parliamentary Standing Committee of which 30 are male MPs will decide the fate of women to decide if marriage age should be raised to 21. I have written to @VPSecretariat to kindly ensure a more woman inclusive panel to deliberate on a decision impacting India’s women pic.twitter.com/Rs4e8sHx1E
— Priyanka Chaturvedi???????? (@priyankac19) January 3, 2022
The MPs to the parliamentary committee are nominated by political parties, who in turn have nominated the male members.
Sushmita Dev, the only woman member of the committee, has also raised similar concerns.
“Yes, I am the only woman member in that committee. Generally, it’s the political parties that suggest the names to the committee, so I cannot say why other parties did not nominate other women Members of Parliament, which Mamata Banerjee did. Having said that I strongly believe all stakeholders must be consulted. I believe all women MPs should be heard. Their views matter. I am sure the Chairman will allow it,” Ms Dev told NDTV.
The bill’s introduction in parliament was opposed by some MPs 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.
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.