Rapes, child brides, dowry deaths and child pregnancies continue to dominate news headlines.  In a country starved of any good news regarding women, the latest set of data released from the Census of 2011 offers some much needed hope as women are observed to be marrying late and heading more households than they did a decade ago.

According to the statistics revealed in a report on Tuesday, almost 1 out of 2 women are now married or have been married at one point. This proportion has risen for women over the last 10 years and fallen for men. While 49.9% of women were married or had been married at some point in their lives in 2011, this number was only 47.7 in 2001.

The percentage of married men has gone down from 46% in 2001 to 43.3% in the census of 2011.

Marrying later

At the same time, the mean age for marriage in the population has increased over the last 10 years for men as well as women, implying that Indians are now marrying at a later stage of life. The mean age at the time of marrying has increased from 18.3 to 19.3 among women and has reached 23.3 from 22.6 for men.

The legal age of marriage for women in India is 18 years, while for men it is 21 years and the mean age of marriage moving upwards could mean a favourable shift since 33% of women were less than 18 years of age at the time of their marriage. In comparison, only 6% men marrying before 18 years of age, according to the Census data.

Running the house

Not only are more women marrying later, they are leading more households too. The latest data points out that more than 13% of households are led by women as compared to 10% households in 2001.

However, this number is heavily skewed in favour of divorced and widowed women who outnumber men by a large margin. Among the married women, only 4% head their households. In Kerala, the number is considerably higher than the national average with almost 10% of married women heading their households but only 2%-2.5% of married women lead households in states like Delhi and Gujarat.