WCD Set to Move Proposal Before Cabinet to Make All Future Child Marriages Invalid: Official
The proposal of the ministry would amend 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.
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New Delhi: The Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry is set to move a proposal before the Cabinet to make all future child marriages in the country invalid, a senior ministry official said on Wednesday.
The proposal of the ministry, if approved, would amend 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.
Under the proposal of the ministry, all future child marriages would be made illegal and invalid from the outset, the official said.
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.
The WCD Ministry official said a draft cabinet note has been circulated that proposes to make child marriages void ab initio (invalid from the outset).
However, the issue of marriages contracted under personal laws still remains unresolved which would need to be amended separately.
Under the Hindu Personal Law and Muslim Personal Board, a girl can seek dissolution of her marriage only if she was married off before the age of 15 years, and she has to apply for dissolution before she is 18.
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 per cent women were married off before they turned 18.
According to the NFHS 2015-16, nearly eight per cent girls in the 15-19 age group had already become mothers or were pregnant at the time of the survey.
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 World Health Organisation, in a report dealing with the issue of child brides, found that though 11 per cent of the births worldwide are among adolescents, they account for 23 per cent of the overall burden of diseases. Therefore, a child bride is more than doubly prone to health problems than a grown up woman, it had said, expressing dismay over the alarming number of child brides in the country.
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