1. Age and marriage: Focus must be on creating social awareness about women’s reproductive health and rights

Page 6/Editorial

GS 1: Society – Women

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Context: Within days of the Union Cabinet approving a proposal to raise the age of marriage for women from 18 to 21 years, the same age as for men, the Government listed it for legislative business in Parliament this week.

  1. Jaya Jaitly Task Force: In her Budget speech last year, Finance Nirmala Sitharaman had announced that the Government would set up a task force to look into the age of a girl entering motherhood with an aim to lower maternal mortality rates, improve nutrition levels as well as ensure opportunities to women to pursue higher education and careers.
  2. With these targets in mind, a panel headed by former Samata Party chief Jaya Jaitly was set up in June last year. The panel submitted its report in December 2020.

About the Marriage laws:

  1. Current situation: Various personal and faith-based laws which govern marriages in India now, including The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the Special Marriage Act, 1954, and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.
  2. The Proposed legislation will have to a amend all such personal laws.
  3. Current Prevalence: As per the National Family Health Survey (2019-2021), 23.3% of women aged 20-24 years married before 18, which shows that the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, has not been wholly successful in preventing child marriages, especially among the poor.

Recommendations of the Jaya Jaitly committee:

  1. Raising the age of marriage is one of its recommendations.
  2. A strong campaign to reform patriarchal mindsets, and improved access to education.

Changing mindset is more important: Though the objective looks good on paper, merely raising the age of marriage without creating social awareness and improving access to health care is unlikely to benefit the community it wants to serve: young women not yet financially independent, who are unable to exercise their rights and freedoms while still under the yoke of familial and societal pressures.

Problems with the legislation:

  1. Law to prevent child marriages does not work because The marriage age at 18 was set in 1978, but child marriage started to decline only in the 1990s when the government stressed primary education of the girl child and took measures to reduce poverty.
  2. Other issues that drive Child marriage: The experts said that often the girl child drops out after primary school simply because she has no access to higher education, and is then married off.
  3. Criminalization of a large number of marriages that will take place once the law comes into effect. While 23% of marriages involve brides under age 18, far more marriages take place under age 21. The median age at first marriage for women aged 20-49 is 19 years in 2015-16.
  4. Child marriage prevalence already decreasing without criminalization: While child marriage has declined, it has been marginal, from 27% in 2015-16 to 23% in 2019-20, according to National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 5.
  5. Higher age can be used against girls: The Child Marriage Act is used by parents against eloping daughters in most of the cases. It has become a tool for parental control and for punishment of boys or men whom girls choose as their husbands. 

Way Forward:

  1. Hence, within a patriarchal setting, it is more likely that the change in the age limit will increase parents’ authority over young adults.
  2. A good, but not easy, way to achieve the stated objective is to take steps to counsel girls on early pregnancies, and provide them the network to improve their health.
  3. The focus must be on creating social awareness about women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, and ensuring girls are not forced to drop out of school or college. Laws cannot be a short cut in the path to social reform.

Conclusion: Good intent does not guarantee favourable outcomes. Coercive laws without wide societal support often fail to deliver even when their statement of objects and reasons aims for the larger public good.


2. Testing the red lines in the Iran nuclear talksIt presents itself as a path paved with uncertainties and risks failure if the players adopt a ‘Trumpian’ attitude

  • Page 6/Editorial
  • GS 2: IR 

Context: Months after Iran’s presidential elections in June, multilateral nuclear talks have started once again in Vienna with a new Iranian negotiating team.

Iran’s New Demands & the Impasse:

  • Iran has reportedly introduced demands that in effect cancelled understandings reached in previous rounds of negotiations in June concerning a renewed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
  • As a matter of fact, a report by a nonpartisan organisation points out that Iran began exceeding JCPOA limits on both its allowed stockpile and level of enrichment a year after the Donald Trump administration withdrew from the deal in May 2018 and began re-imposing economic sanctions.
  • The fact that Iran has begun using advanced centrifuges to pursue 20% uranium enrichment at the underground Fordow facility is making the IAEA very nervous.
According to some analysts, the current impasse is due to two factors.Iran is playing the North Korean card, while moving toward leaving the economic sphere of the United States and Europe and joining China and Russia.The Americans do not have a very clear direction for Iran’s future, especially because the U.S. President, Joe Biden, is refusing to commit his administration to lift sanctions on Iran during the remaining years of his presidency.

Iran’s changed stance: 

  • Iran insists on all sanctions being lifted, while the Americans are asking Iran to return to reduced enrichment of uranium and accept full International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections.
  • Iranian negotiating team believes that time is running out for the U.S., the U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has warned Iran that “the hour is getting very late” to return to the nuclear deal. However, he also added that “it is not too late for Iran to reverse course to save the deal aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear capabilities, in exchange for an easing of sanctions from Washington”.
New general nuclear strategy.Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s demands have consistently centered on full sanctions removal.The newly elected government headed by Ebrahim Raisi has repeatedly proclaimed that nothing is agreed on unless everything has been agreed on.
  • It seems that the Raisi government is testing international red lines, and trying to leverage Iran’s expanding nuclear programme to produce more concessions from the international community, without paying significant costs. 

Europe’s line

  • Thus far they have been almost non-existent in these new talks.
  • European External Action Service, which coordinates talks between Tehran and six powers on reviving a 2015 nuclear pact seemed to be very positive about the way the negotiations had started.
  • According to it: “the P4+1 must “fully take into account” the political sensibilities of the new Iranian administration”, while the Iranian delegation has recognised “the work we have done in the past six rounds and the fact that we will build on this work going ahead”.
European point of viewEuropeans are trying to salvage the deal as quickly as possible, as Iran ramps up uranium enrichment.They seem not to be forceful mediators in these talks, given that there are the Chinese and the Russians, who are in favour of the Iranians.

Chinese remarks

  • The Chinese comments about the “nuclear hypocrisy” of the West suggested that it is sympathetic to the fundamental arguments of the Iranian negotiators, that has been dealt a fundamental injustice by the U.S. — an injustice in which the Europeans have been complicit.

Israel’s view Now : Meanwhile, Israeli officials have been pressing European governments and the U.S. on a real Iranian nuclear threat. However, according to the former Israeli Defence Minister, Moshe Ya’alon,  “The main mistake of the last decade was to quit the deal during the Trump administration.”

  • However, let us not forget that the Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennet, declared openly in late November that, “The mistake we made after the first nuclear deal in 2015 will not repeat itself.” He recently asked Washington to start using “a different toolkit against Iran’s forward gallop in the enrichment sphere”.

Key Questions Remain:

  • Whether the nuclear negotiations in Vienna could become substantive or collapse with no results.
  • Iran and the U.S. will both fail if they try to corner each other with a “Trumpian” attitude. After all, if the JCPOA is a complex affair, it is because diplomacy is all about complexity management.
  • For the time being, the new round of Vienna talks seems to have no positive outcomes. Both sides are completely intransigent and want the other party to back down and make concessions before they will move.




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