Child Marriage: A Legal View

In the culture of Indian society, the practice of child marriage still subsists. Child marriage refers to a marriage duly performed by minors mainly between a female below the age of 18 years and a male below 21 years. Child marriage is customarily in rural regions where there is increased rate of poverty and illiteracy. Social customs and rites, ignorance, benight and consideration of women as a burden financially, are few factors that causes solemnization of child marriage. Such marriages have their unintended consequences like problems related to health due to pregnancy at early age, deliberately cruel gender inequality cycle and further worsening of women status also happen.

Considering all these factors, the British government in 1929 enacted the Child Marriage Restraint Act. This was the first secular law towards restraining the child marriage peril. The Act only held punishments to those adult males who married minors and the parents who encouraged such marriages but the marriage was not made void. As the punishment and fine was considerably less, the Act was hence amended now and then to increase the limit of age.

Due to the inadequacy of the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929, a new legislation was enacted namely, Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. This new Act anticipate in averting child marriage along with intensified punishments such as fine of Rs. 1 lakh or imprisonment for two years. Provisions for the maintenance of the girl child were also implied. In case if the husband is major, he is liable to pay for the maintenance and if the husband is minor, then his family is liable to pay for the same.

The marriage would be void if the child is used for trafficking or any sort of purpose that is immoral. Under the prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006, the age of a female is 18 years and for male is 21 years. A girl can obtain a degree of nullity within two years before attaining the age of 18 years if entered into a child marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act 1956. The parties though not did consent to the union in child marriage yet they are punishable As for now there is no such provisions for punishing the people or the parents involved in the solemnization of marriage. A girl can declare a marriage invalid if she’s married off before attaining an age of 15 and can challenge it until she is 18. However till now there is no such provision which states child marriage invalid. In India, Muslim law is not codified, thus the scholars interpret provisions of the Quran. Child marriage is not barred under the Muslim law. A guardian has authority to get a child married. Although, there is an option of puberty available to the couple where they can refuse to accept the marriage after attaining puberty following the condition that they should do it before attaining the age of 18 then only the marriage can be said rejected. According to the Muslim law, the age of puberty is 15 years. Nevertheless, the marriage prior the age of 7 is void ab initio. Under the Indian Christian Marriage Act, if a marriage is to be contracted between the minors, a notice preliminary is set to be issued 14 days before marriage. Post the expiration of the 14 days, the parties have the right to go on with the solemnization of marriage without consent of the guardian or parents. Under the Parsi marriage and divorce Act, a child marriage is considered invalid. In India, Jewish law is uncodified. According to the Jewish law, the age of puberty is the marriageable age which is fixed at 12 years.

Child marriage is jeopardy and it cannot be restrained without the support of the society. Under the prohibition of child Marriage Act, several demands have been made to make the child marriage void ab initio but the society is complex as well as complicated and making child marriage void will only prove to be hazardous for the rights of women who are victims of child marriage.