To Be or Not To Be: Minimum Age of Marriage for Girls

To Be or Not To Be: Minimum Age of Marriage for Girls

“Why should it not be implemented? Boys' minimum age for marriage is 21, so why not for girls? Even if it doesn't help the situation with child marriage why should there be a difference in the minimum for marriage for girls and boys?” A comment that is sprawled across a post from Oxfam India’s #EmpowermentNotAge Campaign.

Oxfam India's #EmpowermentNotAge Campaign interrogates the need to raise the minimum age of marriage for girls from 18 to 21 years, by looking at evidence-backed research and its potential consequences to the lives of girls and women in India. The campaign advocates that the government ought to tackle the root causes of early marriage – poverty, lack of education and inadequate sexual and reproductive healthcare services.

The campaign uses digital advocacy and on-ground activities to raise awareness and make decision makers aware and accountable of the potential harm of this move. Our online campaign has consisted of infographics, videos and comics on social media, webinars and conferences featuring leading policy experts and academics, as well as partnerships with youth-led and youth-focussed platforms such as Vitamin Stree and Feminism in India.

A recent webinar co-organised with South Asian Women in Media saw prominent academics and activists such as Mary John and former Chairperson of the National Commission For Protection of Child Rights, Shantha Sinha, debate and discuss the pitfalls of this move with acclaimed journalists like NDTV Executive Editor Uma Sudhir. The webinar generated an extremely positive response, with over 150 attendees and a lot of online buzz.

In case you missed the webinar

Similarly, the online campaign has expanded its impact by partnering with highly popular feminist media platforms – Vitamin Stree and Feminism In India, allowing us to speak to their mostly young audiences about this issue using a variety of exciting new formats such as animated videos, Instagram lives and comics.

The campaign has drawn a lot of attention, with comment sections of posts peppered with questions, challenging our stance that such a move would be detrimental to the rights of girls and women. However, this has allowed us to respond and engage with our audience on a more direct and personal level, creating an environment of open discussion and debate. These responses have been met with understanding and one person even created a meme that managed to sum up this complex issue perfectly!

It’s safe to say that people are critically analysing the contours and crevices of what is being advocated. Perhaps this series of critical engagement, analysis and questioning has provided us with a space that goes beyond simple dictation. One of the campaign’s greatest achievements is perhaps that it is making people think, across various intersectionalities. While some comments might demand explanations regarding Oxfam India’s stand on the issue, there are also others like “A woman should decide when she wants to get married” that offer it monumental support.

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