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Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages Amendment Bill 2021 – Child marriage legalised?

Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages Amendment Bill 2021 – Child marriage legalised?

Relevance:

  • GS  1 || Indian Society || Women || Issues Concerning Women

Why in the news?

Rajasthan Allows Registration of Child Marriages.

Present Context:

  • The political parties charged that the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages (Amendment) Bill, 2021
  • It was passed in the state assembly by voice vote to amend a 2009 Act on mandatory registration of marriages within 30 days of the union, will legitimise child marriages.
  • The Opposition also staged a walkout despite parliamentary affairs minister Shanti Kumar Dhariwal defending the Bill by saying that the registration of child marriage does not mean giving validity to it.
  • He also assured that that action will be taken against those who organise child marriages even after registering it.

Child Marriage:

  • Child marriage is a social phenomenon that occurs in various Indian civilizations where a young child (typically a girl under the age of fifteen) marries an adult man.
  • The parents of the two children (the girl and the boy) arrange a future marriage in a second type of child marriage practice.
  • The individuals (the boy and girl) do not meet until they are of marriageable age, at which point the wedding ceremony is done. Males must be 21 years old to marry, while females must be 18 years old.
  • Gender inequality, social standards, girls’ perceived low status, poverty, lack of education, safety concerns for girl children, and sexuality control are all thought to be factors in the high occurrence of child marriages. Girls in rural areas are more affected than their peers in urban areas.

Effects of child marriage:

  • Girls who marry at a young age are more likely to be exposed to the health dangers of early sexual beginning and pregnancy, such as HIV and obstetric fistula.
  • Domestic violence, sexual abuse, and social isolation are common among young girls who lack status, power, and maturity.
  • Early marriage deprives girls of their education or meaningful work virtually usually, contributing to poverty.
  • Child marriage keeps a vicious cycle of gender inequality, illness, and poverty going.
  • The practice of marrying young girls before they are physically mature results in the greatest rates of maternal and child mortality.

Child marriage is prohibited in India as per the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006:

  • Allows anyone who was a child at the time of their marriage to legally undo it;
  • Provides for the girl’s maintenance in a child marriage;
  • Recognizes children born out of child marriages as legitimate and makes provisions for their custody and maintenance;
  • Consider certain types of child marriages involving force or trafficking as marriages that never took place legally.
  • Crime Under Law:
    • To marry a child wife as an adult;
    • To perform or assist in the performance of a child marriage in any way;
    • To allow, encourage, or fail to prevent a child marriage (as a parent or guardian); and to attend or participate in a child marriage (as a parent or guardian).

 About the amendments in the bill:

  • According to the new amendment, if the bride or groom are under the age of 21, and the bride is under the age of 18, their parents or guardians must submit the memorandum for registration of their marriage within thirty days of the day of marriage.
  • The bill requires parents or guardians to provide information about marriages, including child marriages, within 30 days of the wedding.
  • The bill proposes to change Section 8 of the 2009 Act, which provides that the parties to a marriage must submit a Memorandum for Marriage Registration to the Registrar whose jurisdiction the marriage took place.

What does amendment mean?

  • According to the new amendment, if the bride or groom are under the age of 21, and the bride is under the age of 18, their parents or guardians must submit the memorandum for registration of their marriage to the Registrar within thirty days of the date of solemnization of the marriage.
  • On the other hand, if the bride is 18 years old or older and the groom is 21 years old or older, they can both file the marriage memorandum individually.
  • The 2009 Act essentially says the same thing, however the age for both boys and girls is 21 years.
  • In other words, till today, if the bride and groom have reached the age of 21, they can submit their marriage paperwork themselves.
  • If the bride and groom are under the age of 21, their parents or guardians will be required to file a marriage memorandum. Both the 2009 Act and the proposed amendment make child marriage registration mandatory.
  • The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act of 2006 makes it illegal to marry a minor in India.
  • The Rajasthan administration maintained that the Bill is consistent with a 2006 Supreme Court judgement that ruled that all weddings, whether minor or not, must be registered.

Other key amendment:

  • The bill also proposes to add a new paragraph (1-A) before sub-section (2) of Section 8 of the Rajasthan Marriage Act of 2009:
    • 1-A- If any of the parties to the marriage, or both, dies at any time, the surviving party, parents, adult child, or, as the case may be, the parties’ guardian, may submit the memorandum.
  • Within 30 days after their death, a widow or widower, or their children, parents, or family, would be allowed to register their marriage.
  • The bill also proposes amending Sections 2, 5, and 15 of the 2009 Act to allow for block-level marriage registration.
  • A Block Marriage Registration Officer and an Additional Marriage Registration Officer are to be appointed as a result of this. Until today, the District Marriage Registration Officer was the only person who could register marriages at the district level.

What does the government say?

  • Parliamentary affairs minister defended the legislation saying, “the Bill does not say that child marriage is valid.
  • The Bill says that after marriage, only registration is necessary. It does not imply that child marriage is valid.
  • If the district collector wants, he or she can still take action against child”
  • Furthermore, Dhariwal said the legislation would now allow registration to be done at the level of District Marriage Registration Officer as well as Additional District Marriage Registration Officer and Block Marriage Registration Officer Level.
  • These officers will be able to monitor and review the work of registration. This will make it easier for the general public to register. This will bring simplicity and transparency to the work.”
  • The marriage registration certificate was a legal document and without it widows were not able to get the benefits of many schemes.
  • With the compulsory registration, either party or both parties in the marriage will be able to apply for marriage registration and get the certificate.

Child marriages in India

  • Nationwide data is not available yet but estimates suggest that each year,
  • At least 1.5 million girls under 18 get married in India, which makes it home to the largest number of child brides in the world –accounting for a third of the global total.
  • While the prevalence of girls getting married before age 18 has declined from 47% to 27% between 2005-2006 and 2015-2016 it is still too high.
  • The decline may be the result of multiple factors such as increased literacy of mothers, better access to education for girls, strong legislation and migration from rural areas to urban centres.
  • Increased rates of girls’ education, proactive government investments in adolescent girls, and strong public messaging around the illegality of child marriage and the harm it causes are also among the reasons for the shift.
  • At the global level, child marriage is included in Goal 5 “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”
  • Under Target 3 “Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation”.

Conclusion:

Child marriage is strictly prohibited in India, India is developing in all aspects at no circumstances can change the fact the child marriage can be made in action again.

Mains oriented question:

Despite the rise of education and awareness, child marriage is still prevalent in some sections of the country. Examine the social, cultural, and economic causes for such actions critically.