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Prohibition Of Child Marriage (Amendment Bill) 2021

Raise In Age Of Marriage For Women
Recently the cabinet passed a proposal, to increase the minimum age of marriage for women from18 to 21 years old. Claiming that it will lead to women empowerment. So then why are some people criticising it? Is it Good or Bad? What can be its benefits and what is the real issue with child marriage?

Prime Minister Modi, during his Independence Day speech last year, had made a mention of the proposal.

It is based on recommendations submitted to NITI AAYOG in December 2020 by the Centre's task force, headed by Jaya Jaitly, which was constituted to examine matters pertaining to age of motherhood, imperatives of lowering MMR (Maternal Mortality Rate), improvement of nutritional levels and related issues.

Historical Background
The United Nations adopted the convention on consent to Marriage Age for Marriage and Registration for Marriages,which came into force in December 1964.

It obligates States parties to-Specify a minimum age for marriage Prohibit legal acceptance of any marriage without the full and free consent of both parties India had a law prescribing the minimum age of marriage, known as the Sarda Act,1929 later renamed as the Child Marriage Restraint Act (CMRA), 1929. It was the first law created to prohibited child marriage which extended to the whole of India except Jammu and Kashmir.

It prohibited the marriage of girls below the age of 15 years and boys below the age of 18.1978 the law was amended to raise the minimum age of marriage to18 years for girls and 21years for boys. This position remains the same even in the new law called the Prohibition of Child Marriages Act (PCMA), 2006, which replaced the CMRA. According to the law, if a marriage had occurred between a boy aged between 18-21 years and a girl below the age of18 years,it implied an imprisonment upto15 days along with a fine of one thousand rupees.

About 100 years ago, in 1917, some women came together to establish the Women's Indian Association. An association to raise the issues related to women. That was under the British rule so the social is sues they considered important, were raised in front of the British Indian government. In 1929 on Gandhi's advice, Harbilas Sharda introduced a bill, to restrain child marriages. The women's Association rallied on the roads supporting it. Using Placards saying that any person opposing Sharda Bill will be larger at by the world.

Under this pressure, the British India Parliament finally passed the law the Child Marriage Restraint Act,1929.According to this act, the minimum marriage age for girls was fixed at 14 years. And for boys at 18years.

But actually in 1929 when the minimum marriage age for girls was raised from 14 to 15 years. And then in1978, it was raised even further from 15 to 18 years old. And in the same year, this age was raised for men from 18 to 21 years old. The most important change took place in the year 2006. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. This was the first time that child brides were given the option to have their marriage declared void.

That they could cancel their child marriage. Before this, they had to go through divorce once the child marriage had taken place. But now, they didn't need to take a divorce if someone was a victim of child marriage they could go and complain and their marriage would be cancelled.

Without needing a divorce. Section 3 of the act, stated the every child marriage is voidable. But it was subject to a condition. There was a time limit for this rule 2 years after attaining the marriage age. Meaning that if someone was a victim of child marriage void, they could do so up to 20 years after attaining the legal minimum age for marriage.

For men it was 21+2, uptill 23 years of age and women could get it done by 18+2, 20 years of age. Once that age limit crossed the child marriage couldn't be cancelled after that, and this was a big LOOPHOLE in the law.

Child marriage weren't automatically void. They were voidable. They could be declared void. There were some cases where child marriages were automatically void. Mentioned insection 12 of the act like if the parents or guardians of the child weren't present at the wedding. Then it would be automatically void. But in the rest of the cases they werevoidable.They had to apply to get it declared void.

According to the latest data the total fertility rate in India has already fallen below 2.0 so there's no need to be concerned about it. Their main agenda was to tackle the issues related to motherhood. Like the maternal mortality rate. And to reduce the deaths during child birth. For this, they took feedback from 16 Universities talked to 15 NGOS and then itwas decided to raise the age for marriage. But obviously the underlying issue here is of child marriage.

When the girls are married off at a young age the chances of death during child birth increases. The question then arises why are some people criticizing this decision?

There Are Mainly 2 Points Of Objection:
The first objection was raised by Rajya Sabha MP Priyanka Chaturved. She shared this clip ofa newspaper on Twitter showing the names daughters are given in some places in India. 'Dhapu' meaning Fedup, 'Ramghani' as in 'O Lord, that's enough.'Antima'as in Hopefully this will be the last girl child Faltu' or useless.

Obviously, this reflects that in some areas of the country. How society perceives girls and women. Priyanka Chaturvedi says that there is a need for a societal change and legislative interference wouldn't make any difference. She said that 79% of the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao budget is spent on ads.And the government isn't doing anything on the ground.

In My Opinion, this objection is a logical fallacy. False Binary Logical Fallacy here two unrelated things are being compared I agree that the government is in the wrong for spending so much on ads. But what does it have to do with this decision? It isn't that had the marriage age not be en-raised then that could've brought about a change in society.

In fact, the task force on whose recommendation tis bill has been introduced, has put forth more recommendation for bringing about societal change. Like increasing the accessibility for women in schools and colleges. Easing the transportation for women to schools and colleges. And also focus on skill development and business training the committee has even said that till the time the other things are implemented, this law wouldn'tbe very effective.

Let's talk of the second objection. The point of second objection is Freedom of choice.

CPM politician Sitaram Yechuryhas said that when a women becomes18 years old, she gets the right to vote, she is treated as an adult, but when it comes to marriage she will be treated as a Juvenile. How can it be?

Similarly, the AIMIM Chief Owaisi said that if an 18 year old women can choose the Prime minister of the country, can start her business, can sign contracts but can't marry of her own will.

In the opinion of the people raising this point of objection the legal age of marriage for both men and women should be 18 years. The same thing was suggested in a 2018 Law Commission Report. That men and women should be allowed to get married at the age of 18. In fact if the look at the trend world wide, we can see a similar thing in the other countries. According to the United Nations 180 countries have the age of marriage for men at 18 years and in158 countries,women are allowed to get married at18 years of age.

Here comes a big question ,why wasn't the marriage age of men reduced to 18 years? So that it could be 18 for both? Instead they decided on the complete opposite the age was raised to 21 years for women. It's 21 tears for both now to know the answer to this questions, we need to understand the problem of child marriage in the country.

According to the estimates of 2019, more than 1.5 million girls in India weren't 18 years old at the time of their marriage. If we look at the global no. of child brides. One third child brides of the total are from India. According to the 2019-21 NFHS data, 23% of marriages inIndia are child marriages can you imagine? More than one-fifth of the marriages in India are child marriages. Does that mean that so many people are violating the law?

TILL 2017
The age of consent for physical relations for girls, was 18 years. But for a child bride, the same age was 15 years only/. So in a child marriage, marital rape was legal. There was an NGO, named Independent Thought, it had filed a petition in the court regarding this. To complain about this and thankfully, our Supreme Court took an action regarding it.

The bench of Justice Madan Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta, criminalized marital rape for girls below the age of 18. But the biggest question to arise here is Why isn't a simple law formed? That if any child below the age of 18 is married off, then it couldn't be legal under any circumstances.

Not only this, in my opinion, this should be criminalized. When a child marriage is taking place, the parents of both sides , that consent to the child marriage should be punished in some way or the other.

Theoretically, in sections 9, 10 and 11 of the 2006 Act, have the provisions of levying punishments. Imprisonment for upto 2 years and fine upto 1 lakh rupees. But when the Actalso contains that the child marriages are Voidable, but not automatically Void , how would this law work? That's why even today we can see, that 23% of all marriages are child marriages.

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