This article is written by Arya Mittal from Hidayatullah National Law University, Hemant Bohra of Lovely Professional University, Punjab, and Gautam Badlani, a student at Chanakya National Law University, Patna. This article examines the objective and significance of the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, thereby providing an overview of the key amendments proposed by the Bill and analysing the constitutionality of the Bill. . The article seeks to provide an analysis of the laws regarding child marriage in India.
This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.
Table of Contents
In several regions of the world, child marriage remains a common practice. Even though the world is changing quickly, certain areas can’t seem to keep up with the trend. The terrible fact of child marriage, which is rarely thought about, is regrettable. Child marriage is a fundamental violation of human rights and civilization, and it has long-lasting adverse effects on one’s physical, mental, and emotional health. Essentially, child marriage is the illegal marriage of a child under the age of 18 with or without their permission. Ending child marriage is the need of the hour and to fulfill this need, the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 (hereinafter PCMA), came into the picture. The Indian Government has put out a measure to raise the marriage age for women from 18 years to 21 years. However, when societal standards shift, rules and regulations that govern society must also be improved.
This article highlights the key changes proposed by the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, and analyses their impact. The article further points out certain challenges that may be faced in the implementation of the Bill and makes certain recommendations to make the existing laws more efficient in preventing child marriages.
Child marriage is not a new phenomenon in Indian society. It has been prevalent in India for centuries. The most common reasons for child marriage include poverty, lack of education and insecurity among other reasons. However, child marriage brings along with it various consequences. These include sociological as well as psychological consequences such as denial of the right to education, early parenthood, hindrance in the physical and mental development of both boys and girls, etc.
Child marriages have been proven to be more devastating for girls as compared to boys. Girls are expected to adjust to major changes at an early stage of life. Girls are often exposed to various crimes such as domestic violence and marital rape.
To prevent the harsh consequences of child marriage in India, the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, was enacted by the British in order to eradicate the culture of child marriage in India. However, the Act was repealed and replaced by the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. This article seeks to analyse the various aspects involved in the prohibition of child marriages in India.
Origin of the Act
Child marriages have deep roots in Indian society. Even prior to the colonisation of the State, child marriages prevailed on a large scale in India. However, in 1929, the Child Marriage Restraint Act was enacted in order to eradicate child marriages in India. The age limit set by the legislation was 14 years for girls and 18 years for boys.
The Act consisted of various loopholes. Firstly, the age limit was very low for both boys and girls. Children could not be expected to have developed a mature minds as well as to attain physical health for marriage. The consequences of the marriage still subsisted. In addition to this, the punishment under the Act was very trivial. Hence, the legislation was amended in 1978 post-independence, in order to increase the age limit. The age limit was increased to 18 years for girls and 21 years for boys.
The Act still failed to be proven effective in restraining child marriages in India. One of the major reasons was the punishment under the Act. In order to bring reforms under the law, the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 was enacted, with increased punishment for the offenders. The relevant provisions of the Act of 2006 have been discussed in further sections.
Role of the International Centre for Research on Women and UNICEF
The International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW) has played a significant role in terminating the practice of child marriages in India. The policy adopted by the ICRW can be summed up so as to include the following solutions to curb the practice of child marriages:
- Educating girls
- Providing economic support
- Educating parents and society
- Encourage supporting laws and policies
In India, the ICRW has implemented the Maharashtra Life Skills Programme through which it was successful to increase the median age of marriage of a girl in Maharashtra from 16 to 17 in a short span of one year (1998-1999).
Another crucial international organisation that has been working rigorously to curb the practice of child marriage in India is UNICEF. The policy adopted by UNICEF India is to target the root causes of the practice and terminate the same. It has identified various socioeconomic causes to be the primary concern. Another important cause of child marriage is the lack of education in society. UNICEF has joined forces with the UNFPA to implement various policies to conclude the act of child marriages in India.
Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2021
The decision to raise the legal marriage age for women from 18 to 21 years old was approved by the Union Cabinet on December 15, 2021. Therefore, if a girl marries before the age of 21, it would be regarded as child marriage and will be penalized under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act of 2006. As the legal marriage age for men in India is likewise 21, the basis for this modification is the implementation of the constitutional duty for gender equality.
Before the enactment of the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2021, various Acts were in function and that originally gave birth to the 2021 Bill but due to several errors they got substituted with the new ones which are as follows:
Child Marriage Restraint Act (CMRA), 1929
On September 28, 1929, the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, was enacted into law. The law set the age of majority for marriage at 14 for girls and 18 for boys. After its sponsor, Harbilas Sarda, it is commonly referred to as the Sharda Act. Further, the legal minimum age for marriage was raised to 18 for females and 21 for males in the 1978 Amendment.
Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006
The Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929 was replaced by the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) of 2006, by the Indian Government in an effort to completely remove child marriage from society. The Act’s main goal is to forbid underage marriages from taking place. This Act is equipped with enabling measures that will make child marriage illegal, offer victims’ rights protection, and strengthen penalties for those who aid, abet, promote, or solemnize such weddings. According to the law, men and women must be 21 years old to get married, and girls must be 18 years old. Any marriage between two persons who are less than these ages is termed child marriage, which is against the law and is penalized by law.
As per Section 3 of the Act, child marriages are voidable at the instance of the contracting party which was below the legally permissible age at the time of the marriage. Section 5 of the Act provides that where child marriage has been declared void, the children born out of the marriage before the passing of the decree would be deemed to be legitimate children.
Section 10 prescribes a punishment of up to 2 years of rigorous imprisonment along with a fine of up to Rupees 1 lakh for anyone who abets, directs, conducts or performs a child marriage. A similar punishment is prescribed for those who promote child marriages or act negligently and fail to prevent it or attend a child marriage or permit its solemnisation.
Drawbacks of the 2006 Act and the need for the Amendment Bill
With the implementation of the PCMA in 2006, the majority of the problems with the 1978 Amendment were legally fixed, but the social and cultural issue of child marriage persisted due to ignorance of the law’s provisions and a dearth of assertive enforcement personnel and administrators to deal with it. Among the shortcomings of the 2006 Act are:
- According to the 2006 Act, child marriages can only be nullified if a district court petition for annulment is filed or child is kidnapped or removed from the care of a guardian, or if fraud, force, or trafficking is involved. The notion that the Act renders child marriages voidable voluntarily rather than immediately is concerning.
- According to the PCMA 2006, if the petitioner is below 18 years old, the petition can only be submitted by a guardian or a close relative with the assistance of the child marriage prohibition officer. This is one of the most worrying issues because many children experience resistance and physical restraint from their own families, which prevents them from filing a case and obtaining justice.
- Personal law protection further hinders the PCMA’s implementation because many towns still have personal laws that allow for child marriages, despite the PCMA’s efforts to outlaw them. PCMA 2006 also failed to amend the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, and the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939, which could have made things clear and unambiguous.
- The fact that the 2006 Act criminalises family members who are living in poverty, lack of proper education, and may give in to societal pressure is one of the most significant problems. Nevertheless, a number of non-governmental groups have advocated for penalising government personnel who fail to register such weddings in their jurisdiction.
Objectives of Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2021
Reducing maternal mortality rate and increasing health
In accordance with the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act of 2006, it was illegal to marry a minor. The rationale behind raising the age is that if a girl marries at the age of 18 and becomes pregnant, her body is not strong enough to carry the baby within her womb owing to a lack of nutrition, which causes the mother and child to die at the time of delivery. Child marriage violates a child’s fundamental right to health, nutrition, and education. It also exposes females to greater violence, abuse, and exploitation, which is bad for their general well-being.
Enhancing literacy rate
According to a report by UNICEF (the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund), nations with the greatest levels of education see yearly growth per capita which is, on average, up to 5% higher than nations with the lowest levels of education. Taking into consideration the above fact, the Amendment Bill (2021) seeks to improve the learning and employment options for women in order to further raise their involvement in the labour market.
Secularism and uniformity
The Amendment Bill seeks to introduce a secular measure that would apply equally to all castes, creeds, and faiths. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, was declared to be a secular law by the Supreme Court in the matter of Independent Thought v. Union of India (2017). Smt. Irani, the then-minister of Women and Child Development, cited this statement in defence of the amendment bill. The Right to Equality under the Constitution of India ensures gender equality. Similar to that, the government has committed to doing the same with the proposed law.
The Bill aims to implement a UCC (Uniform Civil Code) under Article 44 of the Constitution of India to safeguard vulnerable groups, including women and religious minorities, as envisioned by Ambedkar, while simultaneously fostering nationalistic fervor via unity. When put into effect, the code will aim to make laws that are now divided based on religious views, such as the Hindu Code Bill, Sharia law, and others, simpler.
Curb the menace of child marriage
The majority of underage marriages worldwide occur in India. The statement of objects in the Bill notes that the menace of child marriage still continues despite stringent laws prohibiting this pernicious practice. Thus, it becomes necessary to amend and modify the existing laws to make them effective in tackling the problem of child marriage.
In the case of Association For Social Justice v. Union of India (2010), the Delhi High Court pointed out that child marriage is a violation of the human rights of children. It affects the development of children, particularly young girls, and leads to social isolation. Child marriage often leads to early pregnancy, and children married at an early stage are generally provided with little education and vocational training. Young married girls have to perform heavy domestic work and are forced to bear children and take care of young children while they themselves are of tender age. The Court observed that while young married boys also face the ill effects of child marriage, the degree of harm caused to young girls is greater than that caused to boys, as child marriage leads to an inevitable cycle of gendered poverty and sickness.
The threat of child marriage will be reduced thanks to the Amendment Bill. To alleviate the alarming problem of child marriage, the law intends to provide assistance and aid to children who have been rescued, including medical aid, legal aid, counselling, and rehabilitative support. All children born through child marriages are given legal status, and provisions are made for their upkeep and custody.
The Constitution of India guarantees the right to equality to all citizens, irrespective of gender, colour, race, or religion. Article 14 confers the right to equality, and Article 15 prohibits gender-based discrimination. India is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which aims to prohibit all sorts of discrimination against women.
Girls who are married at an early age are unable to join the workforce, gain employment, and become self-sufficient. This perpetuates female subjugation and dependence on men. Moreover, increasing the age of marriage for women would ensure that when they are married, they are more mature and are able to make the best choices for themselves.
Punishing the offenders/wrongdoers
The Amendment Bill imposes penalties on males who marry minors after turning 18 years old under Section 9 of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006. The child marriage prohibition officer is authorized to give essential and legal assistance to child marriage victims and to present children in need of care and protection before the Child Welfare Committee or, in the absence of a Child Welfare Committee, a First Class Judicial Magistrate. Promoting or allowing such a marriage is punishable by up to two years in jail and a fine of Rs. 1 lakh.
Key Amendments to the 2021 Bill
According to Section 1(2) of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act of 2006, no mention is made of any personal laws that are in conflict with the child prohibition act, such as the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act of 1937, the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act of 1936, or the Indian Christian Marriage Act of 1872. As a result, the 2021 Amendment Bill will be implemented despite the conflicting personal laws mentioned above in order to achieve uniformity. Additionally, these laws will be altered to conform to these additional clauses.
According to Section 2 of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, ‘child’ refers to any male who has not attained the age of 21 years and a female who has not attained the age of 18 years, but with the introduction of the Amendment Bill of 2021, the term ‘child’ refers to any male or female who has not completed the age of 21 years, regardless of any laws or customary practises that are in opposition to this amendment, which was done to accomplish equality among all citizens of India.
According to Section 3(3) of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, a person who was a child at the time of marriage can only file a petition to nullify the child marriage if he or she completes 2 years of attaining majority. But now, according to the Amendment Bill, a child can file a petition to nullify the child marriage up to 5 years after attaining the age of majority.
There are many individuals who slavishly adhere to traditional norms, who are unable to acknowledge females as equals to boys, and who view daughters as a burden that has to be eliminated as soon as possible through female feticide, infanticide, or early marriage. Another factor that must be taken into account in this situation is the fact that economic prosperity is not a gauge of social growth. Thus, the new modifications will take precedence over any existing laws or conventions that may conflict with them, according to the addition of Section 14A to the act.
The Amendment Bill further amends Section 6 and the adjoining Schedule to the effect that the minimum legal age for women to get married, as specified in the Indian Christian Marriage Act of 1872, the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act of 1936, the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, the Special Marriage Act of 1954, the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act of 1956, the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act of 1956, and the Foreign Marriage Act of 1969, would be increased to 21 years.
Annulling a child marriage
Time period for filing a petition
According to the 2006 Act, a person who marries before reaching the required minimum age may seek to have the marriage annulled, but it should, and for that, the petition must be filed within 2 years of attaining majority, i.e., at the age of 20. However, after the introduction of the 2021 Amendment, the minimum age for filing the petition has been increased from 2 years to 5 years, i.e., 23 years. This is one of the most significant changes that the 2021 amendment has brought.
2008 Law Commission Report
The Law Commission Report of 2008 recommended that the minimum legal age for men be downgraded to 18 years. The Law Commission further recommended that child marriages that take place below the age of 16 years should be made void ab initio, while marriages that take place between the ages of 16 and 18 years should be made at the instance of the parties. However, the provisions relating to maintenance and inheritance should be applicable to both voidable as well as void marriages. This would safeguard the rights of young women and ensure that they are not left destitute. The Commission also referred to the laws of the United Kingdom, a marriage below 16 years of age is void.
The Report noted that young girls who are the victims of child marriage are more vulnerable to domestic violence and suffer from child labour at home. The Report pointed out that child marriages also result in a low infant mortality rate. Where the mothers are less than 18 years of age, the infants are 60 percent more likely to die in the first year of their life as compared to infants whose mothers are of 19 years or older.
Some of the other recommendations of the Commission were to make the registration of marriages compulsory and reduce the age for sexual consent to 16 years.
Constitutionality of the 2021 Bill
The government is empowered to prescribe the minimum legal age of marriage through appropriate legislation. However, the constitutionality of the Bill may be challenged in light of Article 21 of the Constitution. Article 21 provides that a person can marry anyone of his or her choice. When a person is under the age of 18, his or her consent to marriage is not considered valid, as the minimum age for giving legal consent is 18 years. However, with the minimum age for marriage being increased to 21 years and the age for consent still being 18 years, a person would be legally barred from marrying even if he or she is over 18 years of age and consents to the marriage.
Right to privacy and personal autonomy is also covered by Article 21, as held in the case of Justice K. S. Puttaswamy (Retd) v. Union Of India (2018). The constitutionality of the Bill can also be challenged on the grounds of interference with the privacy and personal autonomy of the citizens. If the constitutionality of the provisions of the Bill is challenged, the government will have to defend its decision with data and research that support the idea that raising the age of marriage for women to 21 would be in the interest of society.
At the same time, it is pertinent to note that the issue of the constitutionality of the Bill cannot be raised before a court of law as it has not been passed yet and is not an act.
Challenges faced during the implementation of the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2021
It is pertinent to note that the Amendment Bill aims to alter various personal laws. The Muslim personal law provides that girls can be married once they attain the age of puberty. This is in contradiction with the aim of the Act. The different personal laws prescribe different ages for marriage. Moreover, Muslim personal law is uncodified. The overriding personal laws may pose a challenge to the effective implementation of the Bill.
The Amendment Bill seems to be aimed at the gradual movement towards a Uniform Civil Code. However, India has a huge population, and different traditions and customs are followed by different groups of people. Effective implementation of a UCC would require consensus among all the groups.
It is also possible that the provisions of the Bill may be misused to nullify intercaste and inter-religious marriages. The implementation of the law would require regular monitoring and review. In the absence of such monitoring, there might be a substantial rise in illegal marriages. A situation may also arise where the inheritance or maintenance rights of a widow may be challenged if the marriage took place when the female was below 18 years of age. The Bill must expressly provide that in such a scenario, the rights of the widow will be secured.
The Amendment Bill is certainly a step in the right direction, but it would require effective implementation. The Amendment should have focused more on the menace of child marriage. It fails to bring about any change that would make child marriages void ab initio. Child marriages can be declared only at the instance of the minor party. Moreover, the application to declare the marriage void has to be made within 2 years of attaining the permissible age of marriage. The new Bill should have incorporated the recommendations of the 2008 Law Commission in this regard and made marriages below the age of 16 years void and marriages between 16 to 18 years voidable.
Moreover, it is pertinent to note that child marriages continue to take place even when the legally permissible age for marriage for women is 18 years. Thus, it is difficult to contemplate how effectively the increase in the age of marriage for women would contribute to curbing the evil of child marriage. The focus should be on promoting the education and employment of women, as these factors directly contribute to uplifting the social status of women and deterring child marriages. Economic and social factors are some of the major factors that contribute to the incidence of child marriage. Emphasis should be placed on making high-quality education accessible to women at an affordable rate. There is also a need to bring about a change in the mindset of society, where many households consider daughters a liability. A holistic approach must be adopted by the government, and merely increasing the legal age for marriage might not yield the desired results.
It is pertinent to note that most of the government schemes aimed at the protection of children’s rights only indirectly address the issue of child marriage. There is a need to introduce special programmes and schemes aimed at curbing child marriage. These schemes should aim to sensitise people, particularly in rural areas, about the ill effects of child marriage.
Currently, the Bill has been referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee, and the Chairman of the Committee is Dr. Vinay P. Sahasrabuddhe. The Committee also invited the views and suggestions of the general public and other concerned stakeholders regarding the Bill. The fate of the Bill is yet to be determined. The Bill was recommended to the Committee in December 2021 and has got an extension thrice to make its recommendations. The Committee has so far held discussions with the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) working in the fields of child rights and gender equality and religious groups that were concerned about the Bill and its potential impacts.
Relevant provisions of the Child Marriage Act of 2006
Section 3 provides that if a child marriage has been solemnized before or after the commencement of the Act, it shall be voidable at the option of the party to the marriage who was minor at the time of solemnization. A district court may grant a decree for annulment of the marriage if it is satisfied with the applicant.
Section 4 of the Act provides that the district court is empowered to pass an interim order for maintenance of the female child while passing a decree under Section 3, in order to ensure that the girl child is able to fulfill her needs. The court may even direct the guardians of the male child if it is found that he is a minor as per the Majority Act, 1875.
Section 6 of the Act provides that if a child is conceived from child marriage, irrespective of the fact whether a decree for annulment has been passed under Section 3 or not, such child shall be deemed legitimate for every purpose.
Section 9 provides the punishment for an adult male who solemnizes a child marriage, which shall be rigorous imprisonment for a term that may extend to two years or a fine which may extend to rupees one lakh, or both.
Section 10 provides that anyone who performs, conducts, directs, or abets any child marriage shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years along with a fine which may extend to rupees one lakh.
Section 11 of the Act provides that anyone who promotes or negligently fails to prevent the solemnization of a child marriage shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term that may extend to two years along with a fine which may extend to rupees one lakh. The section also criminalises attending and participating in child marriage. The proviso to the provision exempts women from imprisonment.
Section 12 provides that where a child below the age of 18 years is enticed out of the keeping of the legal guardian, or is forced, compelled or deceived, or is trafficked or used for immoral purposes, and such child is made to solemnize a child marriage, such a marriage shall be void ab initio.
Section 16 of the Act provides the provisions for the appointment of the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer by the State Government and provides the duties and powers of the officer. The duties shall include the prevention of solemnization of child marriages in areas under his or her jurisdiction, collection of evidence for the prosecution of offenders under the Act, creating awareness about consequences of child marriage, collection of statistics on child marriage in areas under his or her jurisdiction etc. The officer is also empowered to approach the district court seeking annulment of any child marriage.
The objective of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, as stated above, is to provide for the prohibition of solemnisation of child marriages. The judiciary has analysed the provisions of the Act on various occasions and has provided various landmark judgments. Some of the most important judgments have been stated as follows:
Lajja Devi v. State (2012)
In this case, Mrs. Lajja Devi addressed a letter to the Hon’ble Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, informing him about the abduction of her daughter, Ms. Meera, who was a minor. The High Court treated the letter as a writ petition and commenced the proceedings of the case. It was found by the Court that Meera was not abducted, rather she eluded her parents to marry one Charan Singh. Meera made a statement under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 that she eloped with her own will and married Charan as she was being forced to marry someone else by her parents.
The issue before the Delhi High Court was whether the marriage of Charan and Meera, provided that Meera was a minor at the time of the marriage, would be void under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. The Court analysed the provisions of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act and held that the Act would override the personal laws, and the child marriage contracted by a minor girl, shall be voidable. The Court also held that since the provisions of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, provide that a child marriage shall be voidable, it cannot be held void in any case.
Independent Thought v. Union of India (2017)
In the landmark judgment, the Hon’ble Supreme Court analysed the provisions of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, along with Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and criticised the inconsistencies of the law. Exception II of Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code states that sexual intercourse between a man and his wife, wherein the wife is not below 15 years of age, shall not constitute as rape. On the other hand, the provisions of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 provide that marriages wherein the girl is below 18 years of age shall be voidable and persons supporting such marriages shall be liable for criminal offences. These laws, when read together, create a group of female children between the age of 15 to 18 years, whose marriage shall be voidable, yet the husbands shall not be liable for the heinous offence of rape.
The Court held that the exception to Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code should be read down as follows; “Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being below 18 years, is not rape”.
T. Sivakumar v. The Inspector of Police, Thiruvallur (2011)
In this case, the High Court of Madras analysed whether an application under Section 3 of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, was necessary for the marriage to be voidable marriage. The petitioner relied heavily upon the decision of a Division bench of the High Court of Madras, G. Sravanan v. The Commissioner of Police, Trichy City (2011), wherein it was held that child marriage is neither void nor voidable, rather it is a valid marriage and the husband should be at liberty to seek the custody of his wife.
The High Court overruled the judgment of the division bench and held that reliance shall be placed upon Section 3 of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act and the marriage shall be voidable until the parties accept the marriage or seek annulment under the said provision subject to the limitation period. Thus, an application under Section 3 is not necessary for child marriage to be voidable, as the same is affected by the provision by the virtue of the Act.
Impact of the Act of 2006
The Act of 2006 has been proven to be a great success. The data comparison from Census 2001 and Census 2011 substantiates the impact of the statute. According to a report by the ICRW, the number of women between the age group 15-19 who have ever been married in rural areas has reduced from around 29 percent to around 21 percent. The number has been halved in States such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. On the other hand, the numbers in the urban area have remained stagnant at around 15 percent all over the country along with an increase in States such as Odisha and West Bengal.
The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, replaced the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, in order to prohibit the solemnization of child marriages in India. However, child marriages are still prevalent in the country at a significant rate. According to a report of Australian Aid in collaboration with the International Centre for Research on Women and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), child marriages are still prevalent at the rate of 50% in India. India is one of the most backward nations in prohibiting child marriages. The condition of rural India is, even more, worse than that of urban India.
In order to overcome this situation, the legislature has introduced the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021. The Bill seeks to amend the minimum age of marriage of a female child and bring it at par with that of a male child to 21 years. In addition to this, the Bill also seeks to increase the limitation period for the marriage to be declared null and void. The present limitation period under Section 3(3) of the Act is two years after attaining the legal age for marriage, i.e. 21 years for males and 18 years for females. The Bill proposes this period be increased to five years.
The statement of objects and reasons of the Bill states that the amendment is necessary for bringing the status of women at par with that of men, citing Article 14 of the Constitution of India. The Bill, if enacted, shall also bring an amendment to all the personal laws in order to change the minimum age of marriage to be 21 years for both men and women.
Child marriages have been prevalent in India for centuries now. The major reasons for such a long-lasting prevalence of the taboo include cultural aspects, religious aspects and lack of education. Child marriages are a major concern for the development of the country, as the consequences have been proven to be devastating for children, especially females.
Thus, as a policy to prohibit the solemnization of child marriages in the country, the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 was enacted and later replaced by the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. The Act of 2006 criminalises the support of child marriages in India and provides for rigorous imprisonment for a term that may extend to two years, along with a fine in several cases, which may extend to rupees one lakh.
Child marriage is an evil that exists in most developing countries. Child marriage has incalculable emotional impacts in addition to its negative implications for health. The girl experiences a crisis of identity due to early marriage and coerced sex. Due to the tendency of child grooms to enter into several marriages, there is an early load of duties, a higher danger of violence and abuse within the family, and a risk of being abandoned by the family. Girls who marry young in India are subject to severe and occasionally deadly consequences, while some of the effects are more extreme. With the introduction of the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, various new norms have been created that will definitely help in ensuring uniformity and gender equality among all. With the proper implementation of education facilities, people will get to know about the impact of early marriage on a child.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What are the causes of child marriage in India?
The major causes of child marriages in India are said to be gender disparity, societal standards, poverty, poor education, safety concerns for young girls, and religious customs.
What is the legal age to get married in the United States of America?
In the United States of America (USA), the legal age to get married is 18 years for both men and women.
Which state has the highest child marriage rate in India?
According to a Report by the ICRW (International Center for Research on Women), the majority of child marriages in India occur in the state of Bihar. In India, child marriage occurs in 47% of cases, whereas in Bihar, it occurs in 60% of cases.
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