Child Marriage In India


Vatsayyana, the (alleged) writer of the ancient sex manual the Kama  Sutra wrote,a man should marry a girl of eleven or thereabouts, just on the verge of puberty. The reason put forth by him was that a woman by nature is promiscuous and infidel,and hence to ensure that his progeny should just belong to him,he was supposed to marry as per Vatsayyana counseled.He also asserted that this was the only way a man could secure a virgin bride.

I flunk to assimilate that why most of the wrong practices in our country can be justified on ancient or cultural footings.Child marriage also can be justified by many of those who still practice it in the name of ancient existence.It’s obfuscating to apprehend why after so much condemnation child marriage still persist in our country.

The first and foremost reason for this malpractice and malfeasance against a girl child is that when a female child is born in a family it’s an occasion to lament,for a female child as per the Indian perception is just an albatross for the progenitors.Girl child is a burden in our society,so whatever one is going to spend on her education,rearing is just a waste since she belongs to her husband’s family,and it is her husband’s family which is going to glean the benefits.So the progenitors of a female child hold this belief that whatever they are going to spend on rearing a girl child is a waste and hence to avoid this wastage they marry them early.

The second marriage for the continuum of child marriage in India is the virginity issue,Virgin status of a girl is still a big issue in our country.We don’t exhibit the blood-stained bed sheets the morning after the wedding night as it happens in the Arab world,yet it constitutes to be a major issue.Further there are dowry issues also,the younger the bride the lesser the dowry the parents have to pay,precisely if you have the girl’s age in hand you possess the bargaining power.

These are the basic reasons why child marriage persist in our country.Also the laws concerning the social evil are quite ambiguous,there is a provision in our country for registration of marriages yet it is not compulsory.

 The Law In Focus

Prior of 2006, the legal position was that it was the policy of the state to discourage child marriages (under the ‘Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929’). Thereunder those promoting or engaged in the act of marrying under-age boys and girls were liable for punishment. However the new spouses were not liable for any action and the marriage, despite either or both parties being under the prescribed age, was legally valid and enforceable and there lied a proper civil action of the enforcement of conjugal rights from such marriage; a right which is a concomitant of a legally recognized marriage.The raison d’etre behind such a policy (under the 1929 Act) was that it was in the best interests of the girls involved in such a marriage; for under the existing cultural and social ethos of the land a married girl was no more considered to be a part of the family of her birth and instead a part of the family of the groom. More importantly, since non-recognition of such marriages would imply that the off-springs of such marriage would be ill-legitimate (a stigma which the law seeks to avoid), it was considered important (at the time of framing the Act i.e. 1929) to consider such under-age marriages valid.However things were changed with the passing of the ‘Prohibition of the Child Marriage Act, 2006’ and its coming into effect from 1st November, 2007.Under the new 2006 Act, the parties to an under-age marriage were given rights to get their marriage declared void (thus essentially making child-marriages void-able at the option of the under-age party to such marriage). In any case the right to maintenance of the girl were protected i.e. even of the such marriage was declared void, the girl had the right to maintenance from the husband till the time she got remarried. Further, under the new Act the punishment for encouraging or facilitating or solemnizing such marriages was increased. Nonetheless the policy of not holding the women liable for solemnization of such marriages was continued even under the new Act. But (as it happens in most cases), it seemed to the Law Commission that the 2006 Act was not a panacea to the ills of child marriage and therefore it took up the issue to examine the various facets relating thereto in greater details.

the Law Commission has proposed as under;

(a) Child marriage below the age of 16 be made void (i.e. legally unenforceable under any circumstances)

(b) Marriages where either or both spouses are between 16 and 18 be made voidable (i.e. giving an option of either party to get them annulled);

(c) The provision of maintenance of the girl till her remarriage in either (a) or (b) to be continued and all children arising out of either of the marriages under (a) or (b) to be deemed legitimate;

(d) The concept of marital rape (as being a non-punishable offence) be deleted from the Indian Penal Code;

(e) The legal age for a girl to give sexual consent to be increased to 16 years;

(f) Registration of all marriages to be made mandatory; and most importantly

(g) The age of marriages for both boys and girls be made 18 years; (here the Commission says there is no reason for keeping a difference in the two ages)

(Info courtesy:Law In Perspective)

Despite the laws and the social awareness the evil still persist in our society,the major reason is the inferior status of a girl child,the prejudices attached to a girl child.This is just an extreme situations girls have to encounter in our country,the parents of these unfortunate females are more conservative in their approach.Mild injustice against the girl child exists in those strata of the society where the parents are a bit aware,but the progenitors of such females are exceedingly benighted in their approach.So they are a step ahead in violating the human rights of a female.It is of paramount importance that the outlook of the society towards a female child should change.If a girl is conceived as an albatross before she is born nothing would change ever. 

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