Child marriage has been a matter in India for an extended time, because of its root in traditional, cultural, and pious protection it has been a hard battle to fight. According to the 2001 census, there are 1.5 million girls in India under the age of 15 years already married. Some of the damaging consequences of such child marriage are that child loses chances for education and separation from family and friends, sexual exploitation, early pregnancy, children more vulnerable to domestic violence, etc.
In this article, various aspects of Child marriage in India has been discussed. Certain laws and policies giving protection to these children have and their loopholes are also been mentioned. Few suggestions are also discussed to free our society from this evil.
In current years child marriage has gained increasing importance on international and national development agendas. India has seen massive development across various sectors over the past few years, however, some social evils continue to come in the way of holistic development of the country.
Child marriage as a ritual quite old to Indian society and culture. Child marriage can be defined as a marriage solemnized between two people where the female is below the age of 18 years, and the male is below the age of 21 years. Usually, child marriages take place in rural areas where illiteracy and poverty are widespread. A survey passed out by UNICEF in 2018 affirms that 7% of girl children marry by the age of 15 and 27% marry before the age of 18. The survey proves the pervasiveness of child marriages in India, so many years after the Constitution came into force. Child marriage results in jeopardizing the health, education, and future of these children. Terminatingchild marriage needs work across all areas and at all levels. It needs us to realize the complex drivers behind the practice in diverse contexts and familiarize our interventions accordingly.
Laws and policies perform a vital part in averting child marriage. In India, several laws and policies frameworks are present to prevent child marriage but prevalent customs of India have come into conflict with each other over the decades.
Originally, the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, was brought into the statute books as a conclusion of sustained pressure by social reform groups and meticulous individuals who campaigned against the hostile consequences of child marriage. This Act, however, failed due to multiple reasons. These included the abysmal number of successful prosecutions and police officers requiring a warrant or an order from the magistrate to arrest offenders. The crime was also infrequently reported since the Act itself prohibited complaints after the first year of marriage.
With the beginning of the PCMA in 2006, most difficulties of the old Act were legally addressed but the societal and cultural practice of child marriage continues. Some reasons that account for the practice are lack of awareness of the existing laws and lack of proactive enforcement agencies and administration to tackle such situations.
Schemes like ‘Beti Bachao, BetiPadhao’ was started by the government to provide safety and education for the girl child. Other schemes like ‘Ladli, Laxmi Ladli’, and Kishori Shakti Yojana address issues like female foeticide and education, respectively. The government has been taking strong steps to empower women and NGOs like Save The Children have also been working in the same direction. However, such organizations need your support to accomplish this noble mission.
Loopholes/Problem with these Remedies
1. The burden on the child to challenge the validity
The child bride/groom themselves has to file a petition to dissolve their marriage in their own capacity. If the petitioner is a minor as per PCMA (girl below age 18, boy below age 21), the petition can be filed only by a guardian or the next best friend of the married child.
2. Officers are not punished for dereliction of duty
The PCMA does not penalizeCMPO’s for the negligence of their duty. This results in a lack of accountability, thereby causing problems for children attempting to access justice. The CMPOs also fails to report by disregarding or refusing to register complaints even with having knowledge of areas or communities where this practice still continues.
3. Inconsistencies with personal laws
Personal law protections also delay the implementation of the PCMA. Personal laws of specific communities still permit child marriages, and the PCMA instantaneously tries to avert them, the conflict leads to significant legal hitches. For example, under Muslim personal laws, children are permitted to get married if they have reached puberty, around the age of 15.
4. Registration has not been made compulsory
Registration of marriages has not been made compulsory under the PCMA, thus leading to a lot of unreported child marriages. The Law Commission’s report in 2017 titled ‘Compulsory Registration of Marriages’ and the Supreme Court in Smt. Seema Vs. Ashwani Kumar observed that compulsory registration of marriages in each state would be a step in the right direction
Solutions to Avert Child Marriage
1. Empower girls with information, skills and support networks
By bringing us together to learn basic skills like literacy, how to communicate and negotiate with others, how to stay healthy during their reproductive years, how to work together to solve problems and how to earn and manage money, girls can become more knowledgeable and self-confidence. Also meeting peers in mental helps elevate social and economic isolation many girls and developing countries experience. Using an empowerment approach can lead to positive outcomes for girls and their families.
2. Provide economic support and incentives to girls and their families
Approaches that enhance the economic security of poor households can eat in curbing child marriage. Providing a girl on her family with an incentive such as a loan or an opportunity to learn and income-generating skills can lead to immediate economic relief for struggling families. Daughters who learn skills that enable them to read on and income in the future may be seen as eating more value to the family.
3. Educate and rally parents and community members
Families and community elders are traditionally accountable for taking decisions like when and whom a girl marries. For a revolution to take place, the values and norms which sustenance the practice of child marriage must change. Working with families and the wider community to increase awareness of the injurious consequences of child marriage can change outlooks and reduce acceptance among those who make the decision to marry girls as children.
4. Enhance girls’ access to a high-quality education
Increasing admission to the accessible, high-quality school is a perilous strategy in ending child marriage and safeguarding married girls have the opportunity to finish their education. The very act of girls joining school can help the community in making them realize that girls of school-going phase are still children. The school allows girls to develop supportive social networks as well as the skills and knowledge to better advocate for themselves and their features.
5. Encourage supportive laws and policies
Laws and policies play a vital part in averting child marriage. Advocating for the implementation of such laws and raising awareness among government officials and community leaders and members help strengthen and better enforce existing initiatives around girl’s rights.Advocating legal and policy reforms is a critical first step.
It’s shocking that even today over 47% of minor girls in India get married before the age of 18, which makes India home to one of the highest numbers of child brides in the world. Bihar and Rajasthan have the highest number of child marriages in the country. While the number of girls getting married before age of 15 is decreasing, sadly more girls aged between 15 and 18 are getting married off. Child marriage not only affects the basic rights to freedom and life but also has an impact on the reproductive health of a girl child. The rate of both maternal and infant mortality rate is high in cases of child marriage. Lawmakers and law enforcers must address this issue of vital importance to make sure that children are protected and kept safe.
- Is child marriage legal in India?
- What are the laws provided against child marriage?
- What are the loopholes in these legal remedies?
- How can we avert child marriage?