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marriage of different communities to ensure a uniform marriage age. As of now, the legal age of women to get married is 18 while that for men is 21 years.

The decision came a year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the government was deliberating on what should be the minimum age for marriage of women. The decision is based on the recommendation of a four-member task force led by former Samata Party chief Jaya Jaitly.

Experts, however, expressed concern about the bill. Amita Pitre, Lead Specialist, Gender Justice, Oxfam India, told PTI the latest NFHS 5 report shows that the number of women marrying early (before 18 years) has reduced from 27 per cent in NFHS 4 to 23 per cent.

“Even so nearly, 50 to 60 per cent of marriages still take place before the age of 21 years. Raising the age of marriage to 21 years will criminalise all such marriages taking place in future. The minimum age of marriage has been 18 years since 1978. Clearly law alone is not successful in raising the age of marriage. In upper and middle classes, girls marry much beyond the age of 21 years and this happened without the compulsion of law,” he said.

The official added that the harms of criminalising marriage of girls below 21 years are manifold, which even manifest for those married under 18 years.

Sheila C Vir, senior nutrition specialist and Director, Public Health Nutrition and Development Centre, New Delhi, said while revisiting the legal age of marriage for girls, it is important to take an anthropological view of the existing diverse practices across geographies.

A total of 113 countries accept India’s Covid vaccination certificate with some of them having explicitly reached agreements for mutual recognition of certificates with India, while others have their own protocols which apply to all inoculated travellers, the government informed the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.

In a written reply to a question in the Upper House, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said the government assigns high priority to smooth travel abroad of Indian nationals and noted that quarantine stipulations as well as entry conditions of other nations have emerged as obstacles in that regard.

A 30-member Joint Committee on Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, headed by BJP MP P P Chaudhary, tabled its report in both the houses on Thursday. A parliamentary panel recommended tougher norms to regulate social media platforms by holding them accountable for the content they host, while asserting that it is imperative to store data in India and restrict access to it by categorising it as sensitive and critical personal data.

It recommended widening the scope of proposed data protection legislation to include both personal and non-personal data with “a single administration and regulatory body”, and sought greater accountability for social media platforms by treating them as ‘publishers’.

The report, however, did not recommend any major dilution of the contentious exemption clause, which gives powers to the government to keep any of its agencies outside the purview of the data protection legislation.

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