Prime Minister Narendra Modi's plan to increase the legal age for marriage of women carry "enormous" economic and social gains for the world's second-most populous nation, the State Bank of India (SBI) said in its report on October 22.
"The benefits range from lowering maternal deaths and improving nutrition levels in the near term to putting more girls in college and enabling women to achieve greater financial independence in the long-term," Soumya Kanti Ghosh, an economist with SBI said.
"This is clear from the data," Ghosh said. "The working-age population increases with high marriage age."
According to SBI's report released on Thursday, the mean female marriage age in India is already above 21 years, however, about 35% of are married before then, with the current legal limit at 18 years. It said that both men and women will gain economically and socially by marrying when they are above the legal age, but added that "the urge of the women is much higher as they always get a higher payoff by becoming financially empowered to take decisions".
India is home to every third child bride in the world, with over 100 million getting married even before they turn 15, according to the United Nations Children's Fund.
A government panel is mulling to raise the marriageable age for women in India. This would be the first revision in over four decades and will put India in the league of other Asian partners such as China, Japan and Singapore.
"The marriage age for women in India might be raised to 21 years, the same as for men," Ghosh said.
She also pointed to the number of women graduates increasing as much as 7 percentage points from 9.8% at present.
"The move will have other legal and psychological benefits also," Ghosh said. "Any ground-level change will only happen when the psyche of people alter."