is a person who has not completed twenty-one years of age, if a male,
and if a female, has not completed eighteen years of age.
is the legally or formally recognized union of two people as partners
in a personal relationship (historically and in some jurisdictions specifically
a union between a man and a woman).
Child Marriage is defined as a marriage of a girl or boy before the age of 18
and refers to both formal marriages and informal unions in which children under
the age of 18 live with a partner as if married. Child marriage affects both
girls and boys, but it affects girls disproportionately, especially in South
Validity of Child Marriage
A marriage in which either the girl is below 18 years of age, or the boy is
below 21 years of age is child marriage. The previous law titled Child Marriage
Restraint Act of 1929 had provisions only for restraining the solemnization, and
not for prevention or prohibition of child marriages. The present law-
Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 has three purposes i.e., prevention of
child marriages, protection of children involved and prosecution of offenders.
This law has declared child marriage to be a cognizable and a non-bailable
offence. An injunction can be issued by the court to prohibit its solemnization
and if a marriage is solemnized after the injunction, then such a marriage is to
be declared as null and void.
Consequences of child marriage
Child marriage is an extremely hazardous practice with devastating consequences.
Child brides are certainly more vulnerable to domestic violence from their older
husbands. Young brides are far more likely to be uneducated than girls who do
These girls have a greater risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and other STDs, and are
more likely to bear children before they are physically ready. Approximately
70,000 young brides die every year as a result of childbirth complications.
Girls who give birth before the age of 15 years are five times more likely to
die during childbirth than women in their twenties. Early marriage and pregnancy
can also be detrimental to the girl’s child. If a mother is under the age of 18
years, then her baby’s chance of dying within the first year of its like is 60%
greater than infants born to a mother older than the age of 19 years.
WHY DOES CHILD MARRIAGE HAPPEN?
Child marriage is basically rooted in gender inequality and the belief that
girls and women are somehow inferior to boys and men. It is a complex issue.
Poverty, lack of education, cultural practices, and insecurity fuel and sustain
the practice. But drivers will vary from one community to the next and the
practice may look different across regions and countries, even within the same
To understand the concept of child marriage, it’s validity, judicial
pronouncements on the concept, & suggestions for betterment of the situations
This project is done on the basis of doctrinal method. Secondary data is one
type of quantitative data that has already been collected by someone else for
different purpose to our topic in discussion. It is always convenient to use
data collected by someone else if exists it may be on a much larger scale than
we could hope to collect and could contribute to our feelings considerably.
Secondary sources are of the types:
- Paper based sources books, journals, periodicals, abstracts, indexes,
directions, research reports, conference papers, market reports, annual
reports, internal records of organizations, newspapers and magazines.
- Electronic sources: CD-ROMS, online databases, internet, videos,
Child Marriage is prevalent in India dating back to pre-colonial times as the
concept was present in early religious texts. When India was earlier colonized,
the practice of child marriage used to be examined more heavily. Occasionally,
colonizers used it to label the Indians as barbarians, however, they did not
intervene or attempt to end the practice out of fear of resistance from the
Child marriage was typically viewed as an economic transaction, meaning it was
frequently mandated with certain rules and assumptions. Girls used to
be often viewed as economic burdens who were transferred to the marital family
after marriage. Bride prices and dowries used to be large motivations for early
marriage which were prioritized above the well-being of the marrying child.
Decisions around a girl’s marriage were often based on a family’s desire to
minimize costs, particularly for poor families. As a result, women in the
highest wealth quartile in India marry over 4 years later than those in the
lowest quartile. This gap has been widening over time.
Bride Price means; when the family of the groom pay their future in-laws at the
start of their marriage. This practice was common in India.
For more than 140 years, the Indian government and society has been attempting
to eliminate this practice of child marriage through law.
The important fights against Child Marriage:
In 1927, Rai Sahib Harbilas Sarda introduced the Child Marriage Restraint Bill,
which set the minimum age of marriage at 14 years for girls and 18 years for
British government enacted the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 which was the
first secular law towards curbing the practice of child marriage. However, it
didn’t make the marriage void by itself. It could only prescribed punishments
for an adult male who married a minor and the parents who promoted such
marriages. However, the punishment was minimal, and the fine was of a very
small. The Act was amended and then to increase the age limit.
In 2006, Prohibition of Child Marriage Act was passed. This act had increased
penalties for conducting a child marriage ceremony, made a child marriage
voidable by the married parties up to two years after the participant reached
the age of maturity, and allowed the courts to intervene in cases of child
A widely publicized rape case in Delhi in 2012; the Nirbhaya case played an
important role in influencing the Indian government to increase the age of
sexual consent to match the age of marriage.
Current Status In India
India’s rank is fourth among eight South Asian countries in terms of child
marriage prevalence. Child marriage is currently illegal in India. The legal age
of marriage is 18 years for girls and 21 years for men. Still, India has
the highest number of child brides in the world. Approximately 47% of girls in
India are married before their 18th birthday.
Child marriage among boys also occurs in India, but at levels much lower than
those seen in the past.
One out of three of the world’s child brides live in India. Of the country’s 223
mn child brides, 102 mn were married before turning 15.
The prevalence of child marriage is different across states and union
territories in India. Above 40% of young women were married before turning 18 in
Bihar and West Bengal, and less than 5 per cent were married before turning the
age of 18 years, in Lakshadweep. Almost 50% of Indian child brides live in five
states: Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Uttar
Pradesh is the home to the largest population of child brides, with 36
A girl’s risk of child marriage depends on her background. Girls living in rural
areas or coming from poor households are at a greater risk, and a higher
proportion of child brides are found among those with little or no
Child brides tend to have many children to care for at a young age, and also
tend to have larger families compared to women who marry later.
India has second highest number of child marriages with 43% of women aged
between 20-24 who were first married by the age of 18 between 2005-2013.
Compared to the last 10 years, progress is required to be four times faster to
eliminate child marriage by 2030.
Provisions under different laws
Hindu Marriage Act, 1956
Under the act, only the parties to a child marriage are punishable even if they
didn’t consent to the union. There aren’t any provisions for punishing the
parents or people who solemnized the marriage. A girl can get the marriage
annulled only if she was married before attaining the age of 15 years and then
she challenges the marriage before turning 18 years. There is no as such express
provision to prohibit child marriage.
Muslim Personal Law
Muslim law is not codified in India. Therefore, its provisions are based on the
interpretation of Quran by the scholars. Under Muslim law, there is no bar to
child marriage. A guardian has a right to get the child married. However, the
couple has ‘option of puberty’ known as khayar-ul-bulugh, wherein they can
repudiate the marriage after attaining puberty. However, they must do so before
turning 18 years and only if the marriage has not been consummated. The age of
marriage under Muslim law is the age of puberty, i.e., 15 years. However, a
marriage before the age of 7 years even if contracted by a lawful guardian, is
void ab initio.
- Lajja v State 
The Delhi High court held that the PCMA prevails over personal laws.
- Independent Thought v. Union of India 
In the landmark judgement; the Supreme Court of India on 11th October 2017 ruled
that sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his minor wife would amount
to rape for the purposes of Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The
Court has read down Exception 2 to Section 375 which reads Sexual intercourse
or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being below 15 years of
age, is not rape to hold that sexual activity with a minor would constitute
rape and the exception will not be applicable in cases where the wife is between
the ages of 15-18.
- P.Venkataraman v. State 
The only consequence of child marriage is that persons concerned are liable for
the punishment under sec18 of HMA, 1955, and a decree of divorce is liable to be
given to the parties, if they wish so.
- Krishna Pillai v. T.A Rajendran 
Court was concerned with Section 9 of the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929
which stated that no court shall take cognizance of any offence under the Child
Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 after the expiry of one year from the date on which
the offence is alleged to have been committed. The three-Judge Bench held that
since magisterial action in the case before it was beyond the period of one year
from the date of commission of the offence, the Magistrate was not competent to
take cognizance when he did in view of bar under Section 9 of the Child Marriage
Restraint Act, 1929.
Thus, there was apparent conflict on the question whether
for the purpose of computing the period of limitation under Section 468 of the Cr.P.C. in respect of a criminal complaint the relevant date is the date of
filing of the complaint or the date of institution of prosecution or whether the
relevant date is the date on which a Magistrate takes cognizance.
South Asia has highest rates of child marriage in the whole world. Almost half
of all women aged between 20-24 years were reported being married before the age
of 18 years. Almost one in five girls are married before the age of 15
Child marriage violates the child’s rights and places them at high risk of
violence, exploitation, and abuse. India has the highest number of brides within
the world – one-third of the global total. Bangladesh has the largest rate of
child marriage in Asia (and the fourth highest rate in the world).
Child marriage violates international human rights laws and standards, including
Article 16(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which needs the
free and full consent of spouses to marriage. It also violates Article 16 of
the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW),
which requires women and girls to have the right freely to choose a spouse and
to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent.
states that the betrothal and therefore, the marriage of a child shall be
having no legal effect. India also signed the Convention on Rights of the Child
(CRC), and child marriage violates a variety of CRC provisions, including the
right of children of not to be separated from their parents against their will
and therefore, the right of children to freely express their views on matters
that affect them. Further, under CRC, the state is obligated to be taking
measures to abolish traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children,
Child marriage is decreasing (63% in the year 1985 -to- 45% in the year 2010) in
South Asia, with the decline being especially marked for girls under 15 (32% in
1985 -to- 17% in 2010). The marriage of girls aged between 15 to 18 years is
however still commonplace, so more efforts are needed to protect the older
adolescents from marriage.
Child marriage is a result of the interplay of economic and social forces. In
communities where the practice is prevalent, marrying a girl child is a
component of a cluster of social norms and attitudes that reflect the low value
accorded to the human rights of girls.
Argument in favor of child marriage:
A young mind is comparatively easier to adaptability and sustenance. As the mind
grows, it tends to become more habitual to firmness within the decision-making
process, thus leaving far less possibilities for the couples to compromise on
This is / was the viewpoint of the old villagers who still believe / used to
believe in child marriage, inspite of it being declared illegal.
Criticism & Conclusion
The practice of child marriage has historical roots in both India and it remains
prevalent today. The reasons that have allowed this dangerous abuse of young
girls to continue are that both cultures struggle with poverty and place too
much emphasis on the purity of women while patriarchal views are heavily
ingrained into societies.
Poverty causes the society to view the marriage of young girls as an economic
transition rather than a violation of human rights. Monetary desires frequently
motivate marriage, no matter of the child’s best interest.
Patriarchal views, which are incredibly prevalent in India, lead men to believe
that they are superior to women. As a result, women are usually silenced, and
the desires and well-being of young girls are considered irrelevant. Women and
girls are often treated as objects belonging to men who should aspire to nothing
more than to please men, even if this means early marriage and child
The effects of child marriage can be felt across the world, with negative
impacts on children's health and well-being and reinforcing the acceptability of
Hence, child marriage itself can be considered a form of violence against girls.
Gender norms that devalue girls and ladies and drive the practice of the child
marriage can also promote the acceptability of violence.
- For rooting out child marriage, existing laws need tightening. Reviewing
the child marriage interventions indicate that reform of legal and policy
frameworks is important.
- Child Marriage cannot be curbed without support from the society. There
are demands to make child marriage void ab initio under the Prohibition of Child
Marriages Act, but the Indian society is complicated and complex, and thus,
making child marriages void will only jeopardize the rights of women who are
victims of child marriage. Mere legislation won’t help unless there’s support
and backing from the society. Uniform Civil Code can also help in preventing
child marriage to some extent.
- There is requirement of enhancing the accessibility and quality of
formal schooling for girls; and offer economic support and incentives for
girls and their families to keep girls in school or marry later./
- Women should participate in the decision-making process because only
through a woman’s participation and voice in the decision-making, can a
girl's or woman's aspirations for her children be realized.
- Approach to finish child marriages recognize the complex and complicated
nature of the problem, and the socio-cultural and structural factors
underpinning the practice. Therefore, solutions should be that envisions
success in two timeframes. In the short term (5-10 years), there is a
critical mass of children, families, and communities changing their
attitudes and behavior; in the longer term (10-30 years), there is
aspirations for all the children upheld by new social norms.
- Five entry points should be considered to accelerate these changes:
- to increase the agency and resources for adolescents – especially girls
– at risk of and affected by child marriage;
- to enhance the legal and development policy frameworks for an
environment that protects the rights of adolescent girls and boys;
- to increase the generation and use of a robust evidence base for
advocacy, programming, learning and the tracking progress;
- to enhance the systems and services that respond to the needs of
adolescents at risk of or affected by child marriage; and
- to increase the social action, acceptance, and visibility around
investing in and supporting girls, and shifting social expectations relating
to girls, including by engaging boys and men.
- At the world-level, inclusion of child marriage is in the goal of
UNICEF; ‘Achieve gender equality and empower all women, including girls’
under Target 5.3: ‘Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and
forceful marriage and female genital mutilation’. In 2016, UNICEF and UNFPA had joined
forces through a worldwide Programme to Accelerate Action to finish Child
Marriage in 12 countries with highest rates of child brides . Hence, steps
like that taken by UNICEF should be adopted to terminate the practice of child
marriage in the world.
- Child Marriage Facts and Figures. International Center for Research on
Women. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.
- Diarra, Soumaila T. Women’s Rights in Mali ‘Set Back 50 Years
- Early and Child Marriage in India. New Delhi: Nirantar Trust, n.d.
- Early Marriage: Child Spouses. Innocenti Digest 7 (2001): 1-18.
- India Child Marriage. Millennium India Education Foundation.
- ICRW and Girls Not Brides, taking action to address child marriage: the
role of different sectors: Economic Growth and Workforce Development brief,
- ICRW and Girls Not Brides, Taking action to address child marriage: the
role of different sectors: Economic Growth and Workforce
Development brief, 2015.
- Mukesh v. State (NCT of Delhi) (2017) SCC 1
- Child Marriage Facts and Figures. International Center for Research on
Women. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.
- Diarra, Soumaila T., Women’s Rights ‘Set Back 50 Years’’
- India Child Marriage. Millennium India Education Foundation.
- United Nations’ children agency, UNICEF; Improving Children’s Lives,
Transforming the Future — 25 years of child rights in South Asia
- Court on its own motion (Lajja Devi) v State and Ors,2013 Cri LJ 3458
- (2017) 10 SCC 800
- AIR 1977 AP 43
- 1990 (Supp) SCC 121
- Early Marriage: Child Spouses Innocenti Digest 7 (2001): 1-18.
- Early and Child Marriage in India. New Delhi: Nirantar Trust.