It is not uncommon to see children – more often girls who have still not reached puberty – being married off to men much older than themselves in villages in India. However, these sights, which are reminiscent of the medieval ages may soon be a thing of past now for the Rajya Sabha on December 14 passed the Prevention of Child Marriage Bill.
The Bill gives substantial teeth to the Government to prevent child marriages in the country. According to it, provisions have been introduced to declare child marriages avoidable – an option, which till now was not available with the children forced into marriage.
The Bill gives stronger penal provisions to punish a man marrying a girl child. The punishment will now be a jail term for two years or a fine of Rs 1 lakh. The Bill also punishes pundits and mullahs (Hindu priests and Muslim Qazis) responsible for solemnising child marriages. It also appoints Child Marriage Prevention Officers in districts who will be responsible for preventing such marriages.
Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Choudhary said, “Child marriage – the words themselves contradict each other.”
For 77 years the country has had an outdated law which allowed more violation than compliance.
Says CPM MP, Brinda Karat, “When we talk of prevention of child marriage we will have to keep in mind the girl child.”
The Government says that the law might lead to several benefits especially a higher literacy rate as parents may just be forced to send their girl children to school.