India in her history has combated countless social evils. The taboos and stereotypes of the society have been the roots of the same. One of the most lethal was child marriage. Child marriage as per Indian law is a marriage in which either the man is below 21 years or the woman is below 18 years. India has fought tooth and nail to get rid of this. Various laws were constituted and incorporated, societal drives were initiated to reach today’s scenario pertaining to child marriage. However, the problem is still existing in India. Millions of underage marriages take place annually.
Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages (Amendment) Bill, 2021
Recently Rajasthan government approved an astonishing bill of Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages (Amendment) Bill, 2021. The bill amends the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act, 2009. Section 8 of the act reads as
Duty to submit the memorandum.
(1) The parties, or in case the parties have not completed the age of twenty one years, the parents or as the case may be, guardian of the parties, shall be responsible to submit the memorandum within a period of thirty days from the date of solemnization of the marriage to the Registrar within whose jurisdiction the marriage is solemnized or both or any of the parties resides.
(2) A memorandum, which is not submitted within the time limit specified in subsection (1), may be submitted at any time on payment of penalty as may be prescribed.
The amendment has brought a significant change to this law which says that the child marriage couple can register themselves if they have lived for at least 30 days. Also, their parents can register the marriage acting as guardians before 30 days.
The act found its support in the controversial case of Seema v. Ashwini Kumari. The judgement mandated the registration of marriages. The objective of the court was to track child marriages and reduce the prevailing problem. The decision by the Rajasthan court seems manipulative and opposing to the motive.
Laws are the strongest means to fight any prevalent issues of society. The judgement by the Hon’ble high court strongly endorses child marriage in a way. The consequential problems of child problems are known to society. It comes with the additional issues of illiteracy among children, marital rape of young girls and many more.
In 1929, the first law against child marriage was introduced. Till now various laws and provisions have been made. The Prohibition of Child marriage act, 2006 solemnize child marriage and other incidental related matters. Current statistical data do not suggest that these laws have done much or completely eradicated child marriage.
The foremost problem that laws have not been able to combat child marriage is the variance of laws of religion. Every religion has its laws and acceptance of child marriage. Uniform Civil Code as identified in Article 44 of the holy constitution is yet to be a reality. It would have the potential to curb child marriage by bringing uniform action to the problem.
Child marriage as an international issue
Child marriage is not just to the borders of India. African countries see millions of child marriage. The country of Niger accounts for the most number of child marriages. SDG 5 which targets to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls has child marriage as one of its agenda. Child marriage deprives the children of their rights. The lives of girls subjugate to dismal and hopelessness.
India has come a long way in combating child marriage. Yet, the United Nations in one of its reports informed that almost one in four young women in India were married before the age of 18. States like Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal are home to the most number of cases. The issue of child marriage lies within the scope of the 5th entry of the concurrent list. It means that State governments are equally responsible as the central government.
Another High Court has brought the issue of child marriage to its table. After the high court of Rajasthan, the Punjab and Haryana High Court came up with a verdict. It ruled that if a child does not declare his child marriage void at the or after age of 18, the marriage is legal. The decision shook the country. Adding to the despair, it was observed that the pandemic has undone the efforts of fighting child marriage upto an extent. With the economic shutdown, people struggled to earn their meals.
This was linked to the social stereotype of women being considered as a financial burden. It was concluded that it is implacable that child marriage especially for young girls will again uprise as a problem. Society needs to take an alarm to the problem again. In no time all the long decade’s efforts and progress made in this aspect will go in vain.