Child Marriage: A Bovine Habitude that Still Exists in India

Have you ever heard about Child Marriage? Yes, still this bovine practice exists in our Country. Every year a lot of cases of Child Marriage and its evil consequences are reported. For a lot of people, this is not a Crime.

Now before discussing the Consequences of Child Marriage, at first let us discuss how people generally consider a marriage.

In most parts of the world, most of the people consider marriage as the basis of procuring a family. It mainly begins with the agreement as well as the invitation, followed by a social ceremony involving both parties. Sociologists have been explained marriage as a permanent social, legal contract and relationship between two people that is based on mutual rights and obligations among the spouses.

In simple words, the concept of marriage is based on a huge part of maturity and capability of understanding the responsibility, changes of marriage not only mentally but also physically. Child marriage is nowhere fulfilling any of those criteria. To speak about the wrong effect of child marriage, or what laws are there to protect you must know what child marriage is!

Child Marriage is basically a marriage performed between two minors, or one major-one minor who has not crossed the legal age of marriage in a particular country. Normally these marriages are being arranged by the families of both the parties. Child marriage in the Middle East specifically in countries like Bangladesh, India has been performed in great statistics though it has been declared illegal. The legal age of marriage in India currently is 18 years in the case of females and 21 years in the case of males of every religion. Law will consider marriage as an offense of conducting child marriage if any marriage solemnized without fulfilling this condition of legal age in both parties.

A quick statistics of child marriage in India can be observed below:

Surveyed byYear of Survey in IndiaStatistical report  
UNICEF199847%
UN Report200530%
Census Of India20010 married girl under age of 101.4 million married girls out of 59.2 million girls aged 10 to 1411.3 million married girls out of 46.3 million girls aged 15 to 19
Times Of India200146% between 2005 and2009
Child Marriage
Image Source – Google | Image by – Wikimedia Commons

Laws & Programs that came in force to End Child marriage in India:

  • The first law that came in force against the child marriage history in India was The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 on 1st  April 1930.  It is also popular as the Sarda Act. This Act was brought to prevent child marriages and protect the young child who was being forced into this ceremony.
  • The punishment for a parent of a minor child arranging this kind of marriage will be imprisonment for up to 3 months or Fine.
  • Anyone who performed the ceremony will also be punished with the same punishment unless proven innocent.
  • If a man reached the legal marriage age, still marry a minor woman will be held liable of imprisonment for up to 3 months & fine. And if the man is between 18-21 age groups, then he will be in imprisonment for up to 15 days or fine of 1000 rupees.
  • Though The Child Marriage Restraint Act was brought to stop the marriage between minors, it was observed later that there were some gaps in those provisions. After many pleas, the government of India brought The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 in force to totally make it a total pause in child marriage ceremonies and declared it illegal. This Act was enacted on 1st November 2007. Though the punishment was held the same this Act added some legal provision which was not stated in the previous Act.
  • This Act allowed the boy and girl to have an option if they want to continue this marriage or not. They can declare the marriage void up to 2 years after they become adults. In case of the marriage becomes void, all the monetary gifts have to be returned. 
  • For the child bride’s safety, she will be provided shelter with security until she becomes an adult.
  • If the girl gives birth to a child, being in the marriage, then the child will be legitimate.

After this Act came in force, the ratio of child marriage in this country has been decreased a bit, but still, secret ceremonies of marriage between children were still being performed in many states of India.  The situation was no better specifically in rural areas of many states in India.

  • The conditional cash transfer program Apni Beti, Apna Dhan (My Daughter, My Wealth) was implemented in the state of Haryana by the Indian government in the year 1994. In this program, any girl child after her 18th birthday will be receiving Rs. 25,000 if she remains unmarried. This program has been very much successful to date in case of delaying girl child’s marriage and also this was observed to be very motivating to her parents for her education.
  • The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) stated that child marriage should not have a legal effect, all action must be taken to enforce a minimum age, and that all marriages must be put into an official registry.

Objections:

Arguments in favor of child marriage were raised by the Muslim Organizations of India objecting and demanding that The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 does not apply to Muslims as marriage being their personal law. Though various High courts in India, including the Gujarat High Court, the Karnataka High Court and the Madras High Court have ruled that the Act prevails over any personal law (including Muslim personal law).

Psychological Effect of Child Marriage:

Marriage comes with various responsibilities, duties, and also expectations. For a child bride or groom, it becomes confusing and causes them to fear as well as depression.

Specifically, in the case of a child bride, the pressure which comes first is of producing a child. And if shown any opposing behavior, they are being awarded physical abuse. The kind of mentality which approves child marriage also has the potentials of torturing the young bride for various demands. They expect the bride to ‘behave’ accordingly, not to speak or give opinions and fulfill everyone’s expectations.

Hence these girls do not have their own life any longer. In most of the cases, the young girls are taken out of their school before her marriage.  They are not given any chance for education or any other field. Doing household works and pleasing everyone becomes their day and night routine.

They are thrown under strict restrictions and forbidden to have any social life outside. This leaves them in isolation at such a young age. Also at this young age, the chances of miscarriages of a pregnant child bride are high, followed by verbal and physical abuse, which causes her anxiety and depression.  These incidents have taken many young brides’ life. As a result, sometimes she is given death award by her in-laws for failing them, or she is pushed to the edge where she finds killing herself is the only way out.

Other Issues relating to Child Marriage:

  • Domestic Violence
  • Dowry Death
  • Bride Suicide
  • Bride Death While Giving Birth
  • Infant Deaths
  • Marital Rape

Lastly, we can conclude by though child marriage has been declared illegal in India, still, it is being performed in many states in India like Kerala; it has a high child marriage rate in recent times. Still, children are being forced to marry, and such marriages are taking place secretly under the nose of Law. Sometimes they get caught; sometimes bribing the authority would do the work. Though reports are showing that rates in India are decreased, there is another fact that many cases of child marriage are being hidden and hence not reported these days yet. Until there is the proper awareness about the detriment of Child Marriage, this will not stop and it will be continued. So, this malpractice must be stopped, and then only the initiatives will get success.

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