The Rajasthan government is in the eye of the storm because of a recently passed child’s marriage registration bill. This is something which on hearing for the first time seems like that it is trying to legalize the minor’s marriage but in reality, it is not. Let’s take a deep dig into it and find out what it is and the benefits behind it. Child marriage under the Indian Penal Code is illegitimate under section 376. This bill has been passed for those who have married as minors that is the girl below 18 and the boy below 21 but keeping in mind the condition that is once after the marriage is done stands voidable that is it turns a breakable call of either of the parties and thus to avoid further consequences of this, such marriages are required to be registered under the government records such that in the future needs widows can earn the beneficiaries of it after having a legal certification of this and can help in availing certain government schemes and also will help women to annul a marriage in certain cases. Child marriages cases are mostly seen in the north side of Rajasthan and Haryana these two places are named for most of the minor marriages being conducted there. And if we recall a few years back a tv series named “Balika Vadhu” was telecasted in the backdrop of Rajasthan which very well depicted scenarios of child marriages and their later consequences.
PROPOSITION OF THE NEW BILL
The bill should not be confused with the legalization of child marriage because now also organizing a Child marriage is illegal. So, recently Rajasthan’s new compulsory marriage registration bill, 2021 has been passed to make amendments, in which certain provisions have been provided for compulsory registration of marriages together with minor’s marriages. The bill has sought to amend sections 5 and 8 of the Act dealing with the appointment of marriage registration officers and thus, imposing duties to the parties to a marriage to submit the memorandum for registration. Also, the amendment authorizes women above 18 and men above 21 years of age to provide information about them on their own. Now, also mentioning that in case of minor’s marriage their parents or the guardians are held liable to submit the memorandum for the registration of their marriage and similarly in cases of legitimate marriages either the groom or the bride needs to submit the information for a valid registration at the registrar’s office.
Looking at the 2009 Act which clearly states that for a legitimate marriage the groom’s age is 21 and the bride’s age is 18. Concludingly we can say that both the 2009 Act and the current proposed bill make registration of child marriages mandatory and this is the reason that the controversy from all sides has arisen on this particular point that whether is it encouraging child marriages?
And one more important point which needs to be added to explain well the major reason behind registration of marriage that is even if in case either of the married couples died the other partner or their children’s or relatives or kin can also get the marriage registered that also within 30 days to the person died off. This registration is necessary just as to avail rights available in a legalized manner. Apart from this, as per the proposal, an appointment of a Block marriage registration officer and an Additional marriage registration officer will be made just because this will help in easy registration after the marriage with the convenience of their own and will save time from rushing to the main registrar because till now only one District registration officer was appointed. Also, the new bill proposes to amend Sections 2, 5, and 15 of the 2009 Act to make marriage registration possible at the block level.
COURT’S AND THE CHILD MARRIAGE LAWS
Now to take a deep dig into the controversy that has aroused we see the famous case of Seema v. Ashwani Kumar in which the SC has itself propounded that marriages of all types including child marriages should also get registered, so we can see that the registration of child marriages is not so new for us.
But marrying children at a young age has certain serious consequences too and especially when girls who are just concerned with doing household works and bringing up children and thus, are then run-down of the basic rights allocated to them such as the Right to education, Right to protection from mental or physical abuse including rape and physical abuse and the condition switches to be this that the child bride had to give up her education, which in future turns to be that she is unable to educate her children and loses various other opportunities to look at the better side of the world and thus remains dependent and underpowered and thus it becomes hard then to reach the level of gender equality.
The Prohibition of child marriage act was enacted in 2006. Prohibition was intended for the prohibition of the solemnization of child marriages. And Section 3 of the Act makes Child marriage voidable at the option of the contracting party being children. The 2006 act also deduces that for Section 11 where a minor child has contracted a marriage, the person having charge of such minor child has negligently failed to prevent the marriages from being solemnized, but in such cases also the individual or the relative organization shall be punished with rigorous punishment which shall include gross fine and jail for up to 2 years.
Apart from this, there are certain listed conditions in which child marriages will be considered null and void, these are-
- Is taken or tempted of keeping of the lawful guardian.
- Persuaded to go to any place by deceitful means or by force or compulsions.
- Sold for marriage and made to go through a form of marriage or if the minor is married after which the minor is sold or trafficked or used for immoral purposes.
But one more thing is interesting to share that is why strict reforms and their applicability are required and for this, a survey was conducted by UNICEF back then which claimed that each year at least 1.5 million girls get married by the age below 18 in India and thus India stands as a hub to the largest number of child marriages and nearly one-third part of marriages to the whole world are done in India and that’s why cognizance of this should be taken in this regard. A fresh data says that earlier it was 47% which has now deduced to 27% but still is not that less apart from this around 5,214 child marriages were conducted in according to a report says during the lockdown period which is a matter of vigorous worrying, although rules are made here reason of lacking behind is being the applicability of these rules which we need to work upon taking into the help of fresh surveys and a good executive team along with cogent planning to convince well the people following old norms. Also, the law and Order are still not able to provide a secure environment to the girls in adolescent age and that’s the one reason that girls are married at a very young age. But there are examples of strict actions that were taken by the state of Karnataka in 2016 which passed an amendment to the 2006 Act making every child marriage solemnized on or after the date of coming into force of the amendment as void-ab-initio. And similar amendment was made in the state of Haryana in 2020 . So these were the actions that stand straight without leading to any point of conflict and confusion. But only one problem still arises here is that this move on one side can also result in denial of the legal status of the women or girls in Conjugal life and deprive them of their rights and one more side of it that is it liberates husbands of legal liabilities for desertion or second marriage. Not just this the other impacts include the effect on the health, as well as this all, leads higher rates of sexually transmitted infections including HIV and another thing it is causing is the larger families and population in our due to no prior knowledge of family planning and ways of regulation whose further consequences are the delays in a demographic dividend that would amount to reduce fertility and investment in education. Also, children married at a young age do not very well understand the responsibilities and meaning of marriage, which then disturbs the institution of marriage and family. And thus, there are devastating repercussions on the health of the children involved in marriage and again especially the girls who suffer the most being as a wife and mother turned to mental and emotional challenges to her.
Thus, looking at the new child’s marriage bill and present scenarios regarding this in the country we get a picture of what it is and what things are turning out to be. But the question arises of the implications of the new act, although the epochal headway in reducing the child marriages in India has contributed to a larger realm to the omnibus decrease in the dilation of this custom. And multiple factors stand behind these delimitations that are better access to education for girls, strong legislation, and migration from rural areas to urban areas Along with this there have been positive government investments in spreading a strong public messaging around the illegality of child marriage and the harm it causes also stand as one of the reasons to make this crucial shift but still there is a lot to go ahead.
Since the prevention of child marriage is a part of SDG 5 which deals with gender equality and empowerment of all women and children. Thus, it becomes a matter of extreme importance. So, the final way which could be this is that legislature should declare child marriage below a certain age as void and should avoid ambiguity in its implications as well. Such that by the way of removing such misunderstandings which arise while bringing in a new law and that can be done if proper communication is made and, in this way, they are made aware about the rulings and functioning and things of their interest which could be made through active youth participation including the awareness programs and campaigns in the rural and most afflicted areas.
Author(s) Name: Siddhi Singh (Jiwaji University, Madhya Pradesh)
 Indian Penal Code, Section 376.
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