We live in a society where children are considered as Gods. But in the name of Religion, Status, Caste, etc. many are spoiling their futures. Everyone has a right to choose their partner. And to attain that level of maturity i.e. to give consent, it takes time, so that only the law has specifically mentioned the age where a man and woman can be married lawfully. India’s percentage of children marrying by the age of 18 is 47%. The outcomes of child marriage don’t simply remain inside the family. At the point when 12 million young ladies are hitched before 18 consistently, everybody is influenced. Child marriage propagates patterns of neediness, imbalance, and mistreatment – starting with one age then onto the next. It is one of the most glaring appearances of sexual orientation imbalance around the world. It should concern every one of us.
“Stop killing childhood by child marriage and start educating your children”
A child is born when a marriage between a man and a woman is consummated. What happens when a child itself gets married? This is the cruelest form of injustice that is perpetrated on an innocent child. When a child gets married it loses its innocence and is subjected to inhuman treatment both physically and mentally. The underdeveloped body of a child is brutalized for no fault of hers. This injustice to a growing child has been practiced for centuries. Let us try to analyze the rational ramification and their legal remedies for this atrocity.
Child marriage laws in India
India has come through a long way in prohibiting Child Marriage through various stringent laws. Though there are many laws to tackle, still it is prevailing in many parts of the country. When a girl below the age of 18 years or a boy below the age of 21 years gets married, it is referred to as Child marriage. It abuses the rights of the children, both boys, and girls but mostly girls. There is a decline in the rate of child marriage now according to UN child agency.
The laws which govern child marriage in India were initially the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 which was enacted during the British period. But this act got outdated and it had several loopholes and was not stringent enough to tackle the child marriage in India. Then came the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act in 2006(PCMA). It was kind of an amendment to the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929. But still, the act needs to be a proactive one with an efficient administration.
Even this act has lots of loopholes like the burden is on the child to validate their marriage. If they are minor, then their legal guardian has to file a petition. Children’s wishes or their dreams are not even considered by the parents in a society where child marriage is happening. Then how can a child approach the court through the Child Marriage Prohibition Act, 2006? It is very easy to say this in theory but it is difficult to follow or implement it in a practical way.
Another loophole in this act is the police officers are not punished for their irresponsibility or laxity to register complaints when the children manage to approach them. The officers are punished when there is a dereliction of duty in various legislations such as POSCO Act, 2012 but there is a lack of such kind of scrutiny in the cases of child marriage where the children are denied of their rights and justice is not served to the victims of the child marriage.
The next defect in this act is it conflicts with the personal laws. The PCMA, 2006 is inconsistent with Muslim personal laws[i].
But in a Supreme Court Case once, Justice Gupta had said that in his opinion, the PCMA is a secular act and it applies to all the personal laws. The PCMA will prevail over the personal laws of Hindu and Muslim personal laws.
In the case of, Mohd. Samin v. State of Haryana 1, the Punjab and Haryana High court held that the PCMA will not prevail over the Muslim personal laws.
But, In Abdul Khader v. K. Pechiammal 2, case, High Court of Madras held that PCMA will prevail over the personal laws of Muslims.
Also, Gujarat High court has declared that marriage before the age of 18 years is punishable as PCMA will prevail over the Muslim because the laws which came later should be considered in the 2017 landmark judgment was delivered by the SC in Independent thought v. Union of India 3,. It was held that if a man consummates a girl below the age of 18 years, it amounts to rape under IPC, 1860. Thus, this judgment has created fear among people in society. It is just the first step to tackle child marriage atrocities. Necessary steps should be taken by the authorities to prevent it. Child marriage isn’t connected to a solitary religion. It happens to young ladies of Hindu, Muslim, or Catholic confidence, just as young ladies from different religions. Truth be told, strict pioneers assume a significant job in handling child marriage. They can watch that the lady of the hour and the man of the hour are both over 18 preceding a strict wedding, advance dynamic translation of strict messages, and assist individuals with the understanding that their religion doesn’t approve child marriage.
Causes and Repercussions of Child Marriage
Child marriage has existed in India from the times when the monarchy was prevalent in India. It was practiced to prevent the girls from the hands of the foreign rules. But even after so many centuries, it is prevailing in this modern society which is a disgrace to our country. The causes of child marriage are as follows:
- Cultural traditions
- Regional customs
- Gender inequalities
- Lack of awareness of the dangers regarding child marriage.
These are some of the causes of child marriage. Due to lack of education and lack of awareness parents wanted to get their child married at a young age itself due to the fear of the society and also a girl child is considered as a burden to the family.
The child marriage is bound to have severe consequences which are early maternal deaths, the girls are subjected to domestic violence, the infants born out of the mother under the age of 18 years are most probably prone to malnutrition and about 60% of them die in the first year of their birth itself, etc.
Ramifications of Child Marriage
Child marriage leads to various ramifications that are both dangerous to the child and the society also. In many cases, Child Marriage leads to Early Maternity Deaths. Married girls between the age of 15 -19 are likely to die during childbirth. Domestic Violence is the other consequence of child marriage. Normally young girls married between the above-mentioned ages are more likely to be subjected to domestic violence and cruelty and they don’t have power or knowledge to defend them. More issues like infant health and fertility problems come along the way.
Steps to end child marriage in India
- People should be educated as illiteracy is the main reason that child marriage still exists in India.
- Laws should be stringent enough and the authorities should be punished for their dereliction of duty.
- Media should play a vital role in child marriage.
- Children should be taught about their human rights.
- Parents should be educated about the consequences of child marriage.
“Educating girls is one of the most powerful tools to prevent child marriage”
- Girls Not Brides
Child marriage is a hindrance to the development process of our country. Education should be offered to everyone especially to remote areas as it the main cause of child marriage and the government should take necessary steps to create awareness among the parents. We should be respectful but we must also have the courage to stop harmful practices that impoverish girls, women, and their communities. Our country should take necessary efforts to eliminate child marriage by 2030 which is one of the goals of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development goals.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question 1 – Is child marriage legal in India?
Question 2 – Which state has the highest child marriage in India?
Question 3 – Which state has the highest child marriage in India?
Question 4 – At what age a girl should marry?
Question 5 – At what age a girl should marry?
1. Criminal Writ Petition No.532 of 2018 (O&M);