This article is written by Nandini Srivastava of Manipal University Jaipur and curated by Himanshu Raj of Chanakya National Law University, Patna.
Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929
Section 3 of the Act states that any male who is above 18 years of age but below 21 years if contracts a child marriage will be punished with simple imprisonment which may extend to 15 days or with fine which may extend to 1000 Rupees or both.
Section 4 of this Act stipulates that any male above the age of 21 years who contracts a child marriage will be given punishment of simple imprisonment which might extend to three months and will also have to pay fine.
Section 5 stipulates that whosoever either perform, directs or conducts a child marriage shall be given simple imprisonment of a term which might extend to three months and will also be liable to pay fine. He shall only be exempted from this punishment if it is proved that he had reason to believe that the marriage is not a child marriage.
Section 6 prescribes that if a minor enters into a marriage then the person in charge of the minor whether parent or guardian or anyone else either lawful or unlawful will be prosecuted if he promotes permits or negligently fails to prevent the marriage from being solemnized. He shall be given simple imprisonment which may extend to three months and will also be liable to pay fine. Unless proven otherwise it will be believed that the concerned person has carelessly failed to prevent the marriage. No women shall be prosecuted and punished.
This Act was later repealed.
Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006
Section 3 states that every marriage solemnized before or after the commencement of this Act shall be held voidable at the choice of one of the parties to the marriage. Petition for annulment can be filed by either of the parties once they have attained majority or by the guardian or next friend along with the Prohibition Officer if the petitioner is a minor. The major has to file this petition before completing 2 years. The court, in this situation will order both the parties to return any valuables, money, ornaments or gifts received by the other party or money congruent to that.
Section 4 of these Act mentions that the District Court might give an order to the male contracting party and if he is a minor then to his parent or guardian to provide maintenance to the female contracting party till she is remarried. Maintenance can either be given on a monthly basis or once and for all. If the petition of the annulment has been filed by the female party then she also has to be provided residence by the other party till her remarriage.
Section 9 contemplates that a male who is above 18 years old but less than 21 if contracts a child marriage shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment which might extend to 2 years or will have to pay fine up to 1 lakh Rupees or both.
Section 10 states that anyone who directs, promotes, abets or performs a child marriage shall be given rigorous imprisonment which can be extended up to 2 years and shall be liable to pay fine up to 1 lakh. The person will be punished unless it is proved that he had reason to believe that the said marriage is not a child marriage.
Section 11 mentions that if a child contracts a marriage then the parent, guardian or any other person who has authority over the child either lawfully or unlawfully along with the person of an organization or association who does an act promoting, permitting the marriage or negligently fails to prevent the solemnization of the marriage will be punished with rigorous imprisonment extending 2 years and will be liable to pay fine extending to 1 lakh. In the same manner, the people who attended or participated in this marriage will be punished. No women will be punished.
Section 12 induces the circumstance under which the marriage will be held void. The circumstances are:
- When the minor is forced or deceived to go to a particular place
- Sold for the purpose of marriage or if the minor is married and then sold, trafficked or used for immoral purposes
- Is taken from or convinced to leave the lawful guardian
Despite various laws that has been enacted and repealed and then enacted, the evil practice of child marriage is still prevalent in India. The very imperative reasons for this are as follows:
- Poverty- In a poor family, where the family is quite big it is often considered better to get the daughter married so that the economic burden of the household could be reduced and the available resources could be directed towards the welfare of the other children. Many people still consider daughters to be a “Prayadhan” who will only serve her marital home. Therefore, instead of educating and providing resources to her they spend on their sons who will take care of them when they grow old.
- Security- Many people believe unmarried girls are at more risk of exploitation. They could be harassed, rape, abused, eve – teased by the other men. If a girl falls victim of any one of this then it is comprehended that she will bring shame and dishonor to the family. Therefore, in order to protect their reputation they get their daughters married at an early age.
- Traditional beliefs- Many people are of the opinion that getting a daughter married at a young age is holy.
- All the reasons above might be different yet its foundation is gender based discrimination. It propounds the ideology of the Indian society that men have higher status than women. Child marriage not only deprives the child of the better opportunities but also make them vulnerable to many other problems. Like early pregnancy, high mortality rate, high risk of getting HIV positive, inability to do proper family planning and notably the stress on both the parties to the marriage.
Many people advocating against the child marriage comment that it kills various opportunities for the children who in turn hampers the growth as well as development of the child. All the people fail to realise that this practise most importantly hampers the innocence, capability, dreams, aspirations and hope of the child which is more important than the country. As I firmly believe “Logo se hai yeh desh, yeh desh se nahi hai log”.
Child marriage was first abolished in India in 1929 yet this practice still exists in our country. Thousands of legal frameworks can be enacted and implemented but this issue will not end. It will only end through educational awareness. Once, the people realize that all the genders are equally wise, strong and capable this problem will no longer exist.