The Bill will not be able to fulfill its objective of eliminating child marriages as it has merely increased the age without addressing the major factors which contribute to child marriages.
Harsh Mahaseth, Assistant Professor at Jindal Global Law School, and a Senior Research Analyst at the Nehginpao Kipgen Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Jindal School of International Affairs, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana, India.
Sanjana Chib, law student, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi, India.
Recently, Parliament passed the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021 which increased the minimum legal age of marriage for women from 18 to 21 years. The Bill was introduced in the lower house on the pretext of gender parity, by providing equality to women in matrimony after 75 years so that they come at par with men, whose minimum legal age of marriage is 21 years. The government advocated that as women will be in a better position to decide for themselves, the Bill will try to eliminate early pregnancies and also reduce infant and maternal mortality rates and other health complications in case of child pregnancy.
One section of the society opposed the Bill while another section wanted it implemented.
Bill not enough
The Bill will not help in eliminating child marriages as it has merely increased the age without addressing the major factors which contribute to child marriages such as a change in perceptions of the family members that groom demands less dowry for younger women, the financial liability of feeding the girl child and other societal pressure to marry off the daughter to save the family honoor before she loses her virginity to elope with her lover belonging to another caste.
As a matter of law, child marriages are voidable at the option of the aggrieved party, guardian or next friend but it can be inferred that in reality things might be different when it comes to an annulment of forced child marriages as there are cases when the guardian or the next friend marries off the girl so that the chances of them approaching the court to declare the marriage as void on the behalf on the girl are negligible as they are the ones who got her into this at the first place.
Published in: South Asia monitor
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