From ‘voidable’, child marriage to turn illegal

The Centre is moving ahead with a proposal to amend an existing law so as to make all future child marriages in the country invalid from the outset, according to two senior government officials familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified. Currently, child marriages are valid but can be annulled on request.

The legal age for marriage in India is 18 for a woman and 21 for a man.

The ministry seeks to amend section 3 of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, under which a child marriage is only voidable at the option of the contracting parties.

Currently, child marriages are valid in India but can be annulled if a case is filed in a district court by either of the two contracting parties within two years of becoming an adult, or through a guardian in case of minors.

Also, in October 2017, the Supreme Court had ruled that “sexual intercourse with a minor wife amounts to rape, as under no circumstances can a child below 18 years give consent, express or implied, for sexual intercourse.

The legal age for marriage in India is 18 for a woman and 21 for a man.

According to a study based on Census 2011, there are 2.3 crore child brides in the country. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015-16 also showed that 26.8 percent of women were married off before they turned 18.

According to the NFHS 2015-16, nearly eight percent of girls in the 15-19 age group had already become mothers or pregnant at the time of the survey.

If approved, it will amend the provisions of the law that allows child marriages to continue till a case is filed in a district court by either of the two contracting parties within two years of becoming an adult, or through a guardian in case of minors.

The West Bengal government, in June 2017, won the prestigious UN Public Service Award for its initiative to combat child marriage and ensure education to the girl child in the state.

West Bengal has been awarded for the ‘Kanyashree Prakalpa‘  initiative that seeks to reduce the high child marriage rates and low female education rates in the state.

Through the initiative, cash was deposited into the bank account of girls for every year they remained in school and were unmarried. This initiative led to a “drastic reduction in child marriage, the increase in female education and female empowerment.”

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