According to the United Nations report, India ranks second in terms of child marriage. For a nation believed to be emerging as the next superpower, it is a disturbing reality that evil like infant marriage still continues.
Marriage is considered a sacred union-made by mutual consent of two mature (adult) people who are ready to accept all mutual responsibilities throughout life.
In this context, child marriage is considered an unfair practice. The facts make it clear that it is still in vogue in India with the stated fact that it is very difficult to completely eradicate this evil.
What is child marriage? And the reasons for child marriage
Child marriage as a concept is a formal and non-formal bond between two people before they turn 18. This custom should be seen as a misuse of human rights because it is a form of forced marriage.
Under Indian law, child marriage is one in which the girl’s age is under 18 and the boy’s age is under 20.
Child marriage has a history in India. It emerged during the time of the Delhi Sultanate when the monarchical practice was in vogue. Indian child marriage was used as a weapon to protect girls from rape and kidnapping by foreign rulers.
Another reason to start child marriage was that older elders were more eager to see their grandchildren, so they married children at a young age so that they could spend time with their grandchildren before dying.
Influence of child marriage
Once married, the daughter was forced to leave her home and live with other people in a place where she had to fulfill all the roles for which she was not mentally prepared. It is a great responsibility for a young girl to take responsibility for the mother and daughter-in-law. This eventually leads to isolation and depression.
For men too, it becomes difficult to meet responsibilities, as he has to meet all the financial requirements of his wife and also share his finances with her. Childhood is lost in this process, as the freedom to play and learn is taken away. Early marriage also carries extreme risk factors.
Child marriage is a major risk of sexual diseases like HIV. In addition, girls who marry early have little knowledge about conception and related issues. Children born to such a mother suffer from diseases such as malnutrition and low birth weight.
According to the UNICEF (United Nations International Emergency Fund for Children) report, more child marriages occur in urban areas in rural India. According to statistics, Bihar has the highest incidence of child marriages at 70%, while Himachal Pradesh has the lowest marriages at 10%.
Laws to stop child marriage in India
The Indian Constitution has provisions to prevent child marriage through various laws and enactments. The first law was the Child Marriage Prevention Act of 1929, which applies to all of India except Jammu and Kashmir. The law defines the age of children and adult children.
If a boy in the age group 18-21 is married to a girl under the age of 18, a fine of Rs 1000 is imposed together with imprisonment for more than 15 days. The law was again amended in 1940 to increase the age of boys and girls to adulthood.
Another law that exists is the Child Marriage Prohibition Act of 2006. This Act addresses the inherent flaws of the Child Marriage Prevention Act. Therefore, the Law strictly prohibits child marriage rather than partially restricting it.
Under this law, children can declare their child marriage illegal within two years of becoming adults of their own free will. But this law does not apply to Muslims, which is the biggest drawback of this law because this law unites all the citizens of India in one thread.
Apart from this, sex with a minor is also a crime under the Indian Penal Section 376. This issue creates confusion about marital rape, which is a major obstacle to controlling this evil since marital rape is not illegal in India.
This law is not without criticism. A major obstacle to controlling this evil is that these marriages are formally performed and therefore not registered. Above all, it becomes very difficult to understand the exact age of the children,
since they do not keep their birth certificate or, even if they keep it, it is false, which shows that their age is inconsistent. There is a need to make this system stronger only then this law can stop child marriage. If there is any information about child marriage, the police should be informed immediately.
Children must be aware of their human rights and must be taught to reject and speak out on such occasions. The media must also take a more active role in raising awareness of this heinous custom.
How to raise social awareness about child marriage
On the one hand, it has been assumed that it will take 50 years to end child marriage entirely. Actual efforts can be greatly changed by implementing strict legal provisions. The drop rate of child marriage has been 1% each year for the past two decades, but this situation is very slow.
UNICEF has partnered with NGOs and government organizations to accelerate the process of stopping the practice of child marriage on a large scale. Organizations such as CORPAD (Center for Research on Action and Development of People) and ChildLine have offered to provide adequate funds and education for children suffering from child marriages, social homes and until they become adults.
It is necessary to understand that poverty and lack of education are important factors that hinder efforts to eliminate this threat completely.