The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 passed by Parliament is the landmark law sets the marriageable age as 21 for males and 18 for females. The statue is armed with enabling provisions to prohibit child marriages and provide relief to victims. It has penal provisions of punishment for those who abet, promote or solemnise such marriages.
Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006
- This Act replaced the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 which was enacted during the British era.
- It defines a child to mean a male below 21 years and female below 18 years.
- “Minor” is defined as a person who has not attained the age of majority as per the Majority Act.
- It envisages preventing child marriage with punishments of rigorous imprisonment for two years and/ or fine of Rs. 1 lakh.
- The Act also provides for the appointment of Child Marriage Prohibition Officer whose duties are to prevent child marriages and spread awareness regarding the same.
- State Governments are requested to take special initiative to delay marriage by coordinated efforts on Akha Teejthe traditional day for such marriages;
- Advertisements in the press and electronic media educating peoples about the issue of Child Marriage etc are also being taken up.
- Platforms such as the International Womens Day and the National Girl Child Day are used to create awareness on issues related to women and to bring to the centre stage issues such as child marriage.
- Through the Sabla programme of Women and Child Ministry, adolescent girls in the age group of 11 to 18 years are imparted training with regard to legal rights of women which also includes the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.
UN Report On Child Marriage:
- Progress over the last decade meant 25 million child marriages were prevented.
- Overall, the proportion of women who became brides before age 18 decreased by 15 per cent during this period: from one in four to approximately one in five.
- Worldwide, some 650 million women alive today were married when they were just girls.
- Largest decline in child marriage in the last 10 years occurred in South Asia.
- Rates there dropped by roughly a third: from nearly 50 per cent to 30 per cent, largely due to progress in India.
- Despite this progress, the UN agency estimates 12 million girls are married off each year.
- Eliminating child marriage and other practices harmful to women and girls are among the targets under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- The 17 SDGs focus on people, the planet and prosperity, and have a deadline of 2030.
Why the practice of child marriage still exists in India?
- Social groups follow traditions from previous eras without questioning contemporary relevance. Early marriage allows parents to waiver ‘responsibility’ of settling their children.
- Economically weak and large families encourage the practice as it helps send-off girl children early, while marriage of a boy brings an additional hand to assist in household and economic activities.
- Members of communities practicing child marriage tend to have little to no formal education. Belief in religious scriptures and the idea that these contain prescription for early marriage drive families to fulfill this “obligation.”
- Early marriage ensures full “utilization” of fertility and childbearing capacity.
- Strong caste ties limit the availability of suitable marital partners. As soon as parents identify a match, they make haste in conducting the marriage.
- Limited education opportunities, low quality of education, inadequate infrastructure, lack of transport and therefore concerns about girls’ safety while travelling to school significantly contribute to keeping girls out of school and therefore tend to favour child marriage.
- Girls are often seen as a liability with limited economic role. Women’s work is confined to the household and is not valued. In addition, there is the problem of dowry. Despite the fact that dowry has been prohibited for five decades (Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961), it is still common for parents of girls in India to give gifts to the groom and /or his family either in cash or kind. The dowry amount increases with the age and the education level of the girl . Hence, the “incentive” of the system of dowry perpetuates child marriage.
- The families and girls who might benefit from social protection programmes are not always aware of them and these schemes are often limited to providing cash transfers without the accompanying messages to address the multi-dimensional nature of child marriage.
- The harmful consequences of child marriage are segregation from family and friends, limiting the child’s interactions with the community and peers, lack of opportunities for education.
- Early maternal and infant deaths
- Adolescent mothers give birth prematurely or to low weight babies. The health of the child and mother are at risk and often they do not survive.
- Infant mortality rates are higher than the national average in the states where child marriage is highly prevalent.
- Health Risks A. Because of lack of protection child brides are often exposed to serious health risks, early pregnancy, and various STDs especially HIV/AIDS.
- Violence A. Girl children often face situations of bonded labour, enslavement, commercial sexual exploitation and violence as a result of child marriage.
- She is forced to take up roles that she isn’t mentally prepared for. It eventually leads to isolation and depre
- Increase social awareness A. Children need to be made aware of their human rights and must be taught to refuse and speak up once such an incident is taking place B. The media also needs to adopt a more proactive role in generating awareness towards this heinous ritual. C. Changing social norms and attitudes towards girls.
- To transform social norms, programmes must go hand in hand with other interventions to change parents’ attitudes, improve education, incentivise higher level of education, and increase opportunities for girls to learn, work and earn.
- The values and norms which support the practice of child marriage need to shift.
- Raise awareness about the harmful consequences of child marriage.
- A strong legal and policy system can provide an important backdrop for improvements in services, changes in social norms and girls’ empowerment.
- Imparting value based education to the students in school stressing the importance of education and the ill effects of early marriage.
- Government could rope in achievers like Sakshi Malik, Dipa Karmakar and PV sindhu who have achieved great success in their field and parents and students can seek inspiration from their achieve
- Inform the respective Child Development Project Officers, who are designated government officials, to stop child marriage.