Recent Apex Court Judgement making sex with a girl between 15 & 18 years even within a marriage is criminal offence. In its order, the apex court said that it is removing the distinction between an unmarried and married child because “it is arbitrary, capricious, whimsical and violative of the rights of the girl child and not fair, just and reasonable and, therefore, violative of Article 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution of India”.
Union Government Stand On Child Marriages :-
The Union of India did not approve the criminalisation of sex with one’s own wife on the ground that more than 46 per cent of the women in India, now between the age of 18 and 29 years, were married before the age of 18 years.
Since the Parliament has fixed this age for child wife, the Judiciary should not interfere in it, the Centre argued as the same would destroy the institution of marriage. By quoting different legal provisions, Union in a way ‘legitimised’ the child marriage and left the burden on the child bride or groom to repudiate the same.
Problems facing :-
- There were 23 million child brides, with approximately 30 per cent of marriages in 2016 being child marriages.
- Old men looking for sexual and domestic servitude often bought child brides because they can suppress them easily.
- 12% of girls aged between 11-19 are already mothers & It is well known that child’s body is not adequately prepared for pregnancy or child birth, and risks to both the mother and infant’s survival are much higher.
- States and regions with high incidence of child marriage also show greater prevalence of maternal and infant mortality and morbidity like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh etc.
- Child marriages continue to be valid under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and Muslim Personal Law which is clearly a violation of human rights of children.
According to the National Family and Health Survey-4 (NFHS-4)
- Nearly 50 per cent pregnant women in the age group 14 to 59 are anaemic. More than half of these women — in the age group 20-24 years — were married before they attained the age of 18 years & nearly 27 per cent were anaemic. This has severe consequences for both maternal and infant mortality.
What Supreme court has acknowledged ?
Supreme Court acknowledges the link between early marriage and the physical and mental well being of both mother and infant & it says :-
- National Plan of Action for Children recognises that the early marriage of girls is one of the factors for neo-natal deaths
Neo-natal deaths is when a baby dies in the first 28 days of life.
- Early marriage poses various risks for the survival, health and development of young girls and to children born to them and most unfortunately it is also used as a means of trafficking.
Impact of Decision by Apex Court :-
- From liability, girls would become an asset for themselves and for their parents as well
- Proponents of child marriage who take cover under the garb of “tradition” and “belief’”. They will now face restrictions.
- It will reduce the burden of maternal & infant mortality.
- Hopefully it will also reduce the child marriages because the person entering into child marriage would be scared.
Conclusion :- Child marriage is deeply entrenched in our society and cannot be removed by the law alone or the decisions of Supreme Court but government and the legislature needs to act together & to ensure that there is in fact a complete legal ban on child marriage which continues despite efforts such as Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao.
(Source :- The Article is Concluded from Indian Express & Daily Pioneer Articles)