This article on Child Marriage Laws in India 2022 (Bhilwara Case Study) was written by Ekta, an intern at Legal Upanishad.
This article will focus on what are child marriage laws in India, their meaning, and child marriage in Bhilwara, Rajasthan. Child marriage in India dates back to primitive times even before the start of the British era. It was declared illegal in 1929 under the Child Marriage (Restraint) Act, 1929 where the minimum age of marriage for girls and boys was set as 14 and 18 respectively. This was a result of a social reform movement in India. Later, in 1949 after India’s independence, the age for girls was increased to 15, and lastly, in 1978 it was increased to 18 for girls and 21 for boys. Since then, the age has not changed.
UNICEF is working towards putting an end to child marriage in India. It is working towards empowering adolescents by coordinating with the government, various partners, and suitable stakeholders covering from the national to the district level. According to UNICEF child marriage destroys childhood. It is detrimental to a child’s right to education, physical and mental health, and protection. This not only affects the girl but also her family. A girl child is more exposed to the harmful effects of child marriage due to factors like giving birth to a child, nurturing such a child, domestic violence, lack of parenting skills, etc.
What is Child Marriage?
In general, child marriage is a social practice where a marriage or union is held between a girl child and a boy child who are under the age prescribed by the law. The second form of marriage is a marriage between an adult and a child. Section 2(a) of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 defines a child as a person who is below 21 years of age if male, and below 18 years of age if a female. It also defines child marriage as a marriage where the party involved is a child.
The laws against it have been able to prevent it mostly in urban areas, and in rural and remote areas it has become difficult to prevent due to the orthodox mindset of those people.
Child Marriage Laws in India (Legal Provisions)
The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 governs child marriage in India. The act aims to prevent child marriage and to protect and assist the victim of the same. This law is not gender-biased and protects both the girl child and the boy child from forced marriage.
Some important provisions under the Act:
- Section 9 – Under this section, if any male adult above 18 years of age marries a child, then he shall be punishable with a maximum of two years imprisonment or with a maximum of 1 lakh rupees fine or both.
- Section 10 – Any person who performs or conducts child marriage will be punishable with a maximum of 2 years of imprisonment and with a maximum of 1 lakh rupees fine. However, if such a person proves that he truly believed that the marriage was not a child marriage, then he will not be subjected to punishment under this section.
- Section 11 – Any person whether a parent, guardian or any other person including any member of an association or organization, lawful or unlawful, who permits or promotes the solemnization of child marriage shall be punishable with a maximum of 2 years of imprisonment along with a maximum of 1 lakh rupees fine. An exception to these sections is that no woman shall be punished with imprisonment.
- Section 4 – This section provides provisions for the maintenance of a girl child. If the husband is a major then he is liable to pay the maintenance and if the husband is a minor, his parents or guardian will be liable to pay maintenance.
- Section 3 – Under this section, every child marriage solemnized before or after the commencement of this Act will be voidable at the discretion of the parties involved.
- Section 16 – This section also provides provisions for the appointment of Child Marriage Prohibition Officers whose primary duty will be to prevent the solemnization of child marriage by taking appropriate actions.
- Section 12 – If a child is enticed or taken away from the lawful guardian, involves force, or deceitful means or if the marriage is solemnized for trafficking or immoral purposes then such marriage will be void.
However, child marriages can be solemnized according to personal laws. Therefore, there is no common law for its solemnization.
Child Marriage in Bhilwara, Rajasthan
It has been reported that the states of Bihar, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka have the highest rates of child marriage. Among all this, child marriage in Bhilwara, Rajasthan has become a burning issue in India. In December 2021 three child marriage cases were reported from Bhilwara, Rajasthan. From these three child marriages, the administration was able to stop one. It was noted that the children were between the age of 10-12.
Between April 2020 to December 2020 the Rajasthan State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (RSCPCR) successfully stopped 48 child marriages out of which 18 marriages were stopped in Bhilwara and which was the highest. RSCPCR also informed the district collectors and SPs about this and ordered them to make sure that no child marriages are practised in the state.
In April 2021, the guidelines were issued by the state home department for the administration of the district regarding child marriages. The guideline stated that the wedding invitation cards must also have the date of birth of the bride and groom, to ensure if they are minor or major. Moreover, control rooms were set where anyone can report the solemnization of child marriage.
Recently, the Rajasthan state assembly passed the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages (Amendment) Bill, 2021. It amends the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act, 2009 under which the parents or guardians of the children were supposed to furnish the child marriage information within 30 days of the union.
The 2021 amendment allows women above 18 years of age to furnish information regarding their marriage on their own. It was argued that this amendment legitimizes child marriages. The minister of parliamentary affairs defended the bill and stated that the provision regarding mandatory registration was already there in the 2009 Act and this amendment only aims to reduce the age of girls from 21 to 18 to provide information regarding their marriage.
Furthermore, the minister clarified that the provisions of the amendment don’t imply the legalization of child marriage and every child has the freedom to annul his/her marriage after becoming an adult. The state government also declared that the bill is passed to safeguard the rights of children and end child marriages.
- After realizing the negative effects of child marriage, it is important to educate the people in rural areas about the laws concerning it. While doing so, its consequences should be emphasized which will help to create a required amount of distress in the people’s minds.
- It should be made mandatory, especially in rural areas schools to educate the children about laws against child marriage. This way teachers can play a vital role in preventing it.
- To avoid any legal issues families also try to conduct child marriages secretly. So, Police Officers should be trained to suspect such secretly held child marriages.
Child Marriage is a very deep issue and it is necessary to uproot it. It has been active in India since ancient times, therefore, mere laws against it will not be helpful to prevent it. Along with laws, there is a need for support from all societies. Estimates show that there are over 24 million child brides in India. According to the International Center for Research on Women, India has the 14th highest rate of child marriages in the world. Along with this, the National Family Health Survey indicates that out of 60 million child marriages in the world, 40% take place in India. This huge data proves that some societies are playing a major role in encouraging it.
However, this doesn’t mean that there is no improvement at all. There is a significant decrease in child marriages in India and this is due to access to education among girls, literacy of mothers, and active investment by the government in adolescent girls. Apart from this, child marriage also affects the economy as married children may not have the required skills, knowledge, and employment possibilities needed to support their families in poverty. Also, early marriage results in more childbirths which increases the economic load of the family. Hence, all this affects the economy of India negatively.
- Budhwar, Y. (2021, May 16). Rajasthan: 48 child marriages stopped in April-December last year. Retrieved: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/48-child-marriages-stopped-in-apr-dec-last-yr/articleshow/82666738.cms
- Desk, T. (2021, December 10). Despite Ban, Shocking Video Shows Children Getting Married in Rajasthan’s Bhilwara. Retrieved: https://www.india.com/viral/shocking-video-despite-child-marriage-ban-minors-getting-married-rajasthans-bhilwara-5133286/
- Ending child marriage and adolescent empowerment. (n.d.). Retrieved: https://www.unicef.org/india/what-we-do/end-child-marriage#:~:text=Estimates%20suggest%20that%20each%20year,15%2D19%20are%20currently%20married.
- Goyal, A. (2019, July 26). Child Marriage and the Laws Pertaining to it. https://blog.ipleaders.in/child-marriage-and-the-laws-pertaining-to-it/#:~:text=The%20child%20marriage%20below%2018,of%20marriage%20be%20made%20compulsory.
- Mahajan, R. (2016, January 21). Laws On Child Marriage In India. Retrieved: https://blog.ipleaders.in/laws-child-marriage-india/
- Mishra, S. (2021, September 27). Child marriage in India (Amendment) Bill, 2021. Retrieved: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/readersblog/myblogpower/child-marriage-in-india-amendment-bill-2021-37786/
- Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. Retrieved: https://legislative.gov.in/sites/default/files/A2007-06.pdf