According to UNICEF, Child Marriage violates the rights of children and puts them at a high risk of violence, exploitation and abuse. This marriage affects both girls and boys, but it disproportionately affects girls.
It is defined as the marriage of a girl or boy before the age of 18 and covers both formal marriages and informal unions. In which children under the age of 18 year, live with a partner if they were married.
Child Marriage ends childhood. It negatively affects children’s rights to education, health and protection. These consequences impact not only the girl directly, but also her family and community.
Child Marriage in India
In India, Child Marriage has been practiced since ancient times when young children and teenagers were married much before they reached physical and mental maturity. There are many reasons why some parents agree to child marriage. Some of them may be economic necessity, male protection of their daughters, childbearing or oppressive traditional values and norms.
In India, under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006, a child has been defined as “a person who, in the case of a male, has not attained the age of 21 years. And in the case of a female, has not attained the age of 18 years”. This law also declares that any marriage between children who have not reached the legal age limit is void. The Act also provides penalties for various offenses for enabling or conducting child marriages between minors or marriages between minors and adults. Despite this, marriages of child is still widespread across the country.
States such as Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh still have Child marriage. Child marriage in India has serious implications for population control. As teenage brides are likely to have high fertility and a number of unwanted pregnancies.
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Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006
The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 came into force in India on 1 November 2007. According to the preamble, the 2006 Act prohibits this marriage in India for all its citizens. It also protects and provides assistance to victims of child marriage. The 2006 Act is the central criminal law and punishes the accused parties. Muslim personal law operates in its own sphere of family law when it comes to civil aspects. It cannot replace central law, at least when a crime occurs. Not much can be said as the matter is subordination before SC India. However, it would be better for all Indian citizens to follow the 2006 Act until the rulings from the SC of India are available.
To ensure the eradication of marriage of child from society, the Government of India enacted the Prevention of Child Marriage Act, 2006 by replacing the earlier Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929. This new law is armed with provisions to prohibit child marriage, protect and provide relief victims and increase penalties for those who support, encourage or celebrate such marriages. This Act also requires the appointment of a Child Marriage Prohibition Officer for the whole or part of the State by the State Government.
Legal Age for Marriage in India
Men in India can marry at the age of 21, while the marriage age for women is 18.
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Child Marriage Restraint Act
This act was a piece of legislation passed on 28 September 1929. The act set the age of marriage for girls at 14 and for boys at 18. It is popularly known as the Sharda Act after its sponsor, Harbilas Sarda.
- Various bills dealing with age of consent issues have been introduced and defeated in Indian legislatures. All India Women’s Conference, Women’s Indian Association and National Council of Women in India through their members developed and articulated the case in favor of raising the age of marriage and consent before the Joshi Committee.
- Muslim women presented their views to the Joshi Committee. Which is in favor of raising the marriage age, even though they knew they would face opposition from Muslim Ulemas.
- The Joshi Committee submitted its report on 20 June 1929 and it was approved by the Imperial Legislative Council on 28 September 1929 and became law on 1 April 1930, after Lord Irwin’s assent, which extended to the whole of British India.
- It fixed 14 and 18 as the marriageable age for girls and boys of all communities.
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- This Act was passed in 1929, to get rid of the evil of child marriage.
- The aim is to eliminate a particular evil that had the potential to threaten the life and health of a female child. Who could not withstand the stress and strain of married life, and to avoid premature deaths of such underage mothers.
If an adult male above the age of eighteen years marries a child, he shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years and/or with fine which may extend to Rs. 1 lakh. The same penalty will be imposed on the one who carries out, conducts or directs a child marriage. Unless proven otherwise, the child’s parents or guardian are presumed not to have prevented the child’s marriage and are therefore also liable.