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The Prohibition Of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021: A Critical Analysis

Child marriage has a significant impact on the Indian economy and can lead to a poverty cycle that lasts generations. Girls and boys who marry as youngsters are more likely to lack the skills, knowledge, and work opportunities necessary to bring their families out of poverty and contribute to their country's social and economic development.

In the 21st century when the legal age of marriage is 18 in India there are still regions where forms of child marriages are prevalent. This necessitates the creation of a new, stronger legislation with better execution than the current one. In this article, we will explore the increase in the age of marriage for females from 18 to 21 and why it is necessary, as well as objections of the same.

Introduction
The Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, was submitted in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, with the goal of raising the minimum legal age of marriage for females from 18 to 21 years. With this decision, the government would raise the marriage age for men and women to the same level.

Smriti Irani, the Minister for Women and Child Development, tabled the Bill amid a ruckus, with opposition members asking that it be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee. Later, the minister stated that the administration intended to present. In her introduction to the bill, Smriti Irani, the minister for women and child development, stated unequivocally that the bill wants to supersede all existing laws, including "any custom, use, or practise" controlling the parties in marriage.

All connected laws, including personal laws, will be brought into compliance with the revisions. The Indian Christian Marriage Act, the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, the Special Marriage Act, the Hindu Marriage Act, and the Foreign Marriage Act are all examples of these laws.he bill to the standing committee, and it was forwarded to the panel.

Jaya Jaitly committee and its recommendations
The Ministry of Women and Child Development established a task group in June 2020 to investigate the relationship between the age of marriage and concerns such as women's nutrition, anaemia prevalence, IMR, MMR, and other social indicators. Former Samata Party president. The committee was directed by former Samata Party president Jaya Jaitly and includes NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr V K Paul and secretaries from different ministries.

The committee was to look at raising the marriage age and its consequences for women's and children's health, as well as ways to increase women's access to education. The group was also supposed to suggest a deadline for the government to adopt the policy, as well as the changes that need be made.
  1. Based on feedback from young adults from 16 colleges around the country, the committee has proposed that the marriage age be raised to 21 years. Over 15 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) also have been enlisted to reach out to young adults in distant areas and marginalised communities. According to committee members, input was solicited from young people of all faiths, as well as from both rural and urban regions.
     
  2. The committee also asked the government to look into increasing girls' access to schools and colleges, as well as their transportation to these institutions from outlying areas. Skills and business training have also been advocated, as has sex education in schools.
     
  3. The committee stated that these deliveries must come first since the law would not be as effective until they are implemented and women are empowered.
     
  4. The group also advised that a huge public awareness campaign about the rising age of marriage be launched, as well as societal acceptance of the new rule, which they believe would be considerably more successful than coercive methods.
     
Statement Of Object
  1. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, substituted the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, to prevent the solemnization of child weddings, yet this very harmful practise has not been totally removed from our culture. As a result, there is a pressing need to address this societal issue and implement changes. We can't claim progress unless women improve in all areas of their lives, including physical, mental, and reproductive health.The Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872; the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936; the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937; the Special Marriage Act, 1954; the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; and the Foreign Marriage Act, 1969, do not provide for a uniform minimum age of marriage for parties.
     
  2. As part of the fundamental rights, the Constitution protects gender equality, as well as the prohibition of discrimination based on sex. Women are sometimes placed in a disadvantaged situation when it comes to higher education, vocational training, psychological maturity and skill sets, and so forth. Obtaining job and becoming a member of the labour force in order to become self-sufficient.
     
  3. Lowering maternal and infant mortality rates, as well as improving nutrition and sex ratios at birth, are also imperatives, since they would enhance opportunities for responsible parenthood for both father and mother, making them more capable of taking better care of their children.
     
  4. To bring down the incidence of teenage pregnancies, which are not only harmful for women's overall health but also result in more miscarriages and still births.
     
  5. To address women's issues holistically, the Bill proposes to:
    I amend the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, to strengthen its application overriding all other existing laws, including any custom, usage, or practise governing the parties in relation to child marriage:
    1. Amend the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, to strengthen its application overriding all other existing laws, including any custom, usage, or practise governing the parties in relation to child marriage.
    2. Bring women at par with men in terms of marriageable age;
    3. Prohibit child marriage irrespective of any law, custom, usage or practice governing the parties;
    4. declare that provisions of the Act shall have overriding effect over every other law, custom, usage or practice governing the parties;
    5. Make consequential amendments to the other laws relating to marriage;
    6. Make the amendments effective, in relation to marriageable age, two years
    7. From the date the Bill receives in assent of the President, so as to provide sufficient
    8. Opportunity to one and all in our collective efforts and inclusive growth, and to make effective other provisions immediately.

Criticism Related To The Bill
Child and women's rights advocates, as well as population and family planning professionals, have been opposed to raising the marriage age for women, arguing that such legislation would force a huge proportion of the population into illicit marriages.
  1. Opponents of the idea argue that child marriage are common in India today, despite the fact that they are illegal. According to the National Family Health Survey (2019-2021), one-fourth of women aged 20-24 were married before they turned 18. The number of child marriages has grown worldwide after the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of enacting a higher marriage age, it is suggested that the root cause of child marriage be addressed in order to create a societal value shift.
     
  2. Some girls from particularly strict, regressive, and patriarchal homes manage to flee their families' clutches by marrying a man of their choice after reaching 18. Such girls would have to wait three extra years as a result of the proposed law reform; this time might be utilised by families and the wider society to frighten and control such females.
     
  3. According to 2019 official data, the average age for women to marry is 22.1 years. This number has progressively increased over time, indicating that the shift is voluntary. The shift has mostly occurred as women's educational levels have improved. As a result, improving education for girls, conducting education awareness programmes in communities with low female education rates, and sensitising young students of both genders about the importance of individual financial stability and the dangers of teen pregnancy may be the solution to the problems that the proposed amendment seeks to address.
     
  4. Girls belonging to socio-economically weak families are forced into child marriages and providing them financial support, especially for pursuing education, will automatically raise the age of marriage among women.

Conclusion
The Sarda Act, or Child Marriage Restraint, was adopted in 1929 as the first regulation limiting the minimum age of marriage, but it was never implemented to preserve the views of diverse communities. However, after independence, an amendment to the Act was passed in 1978, raising the marriage age to 18 for women and 21 for males. This regulation has remained in effect till now, despite the fact that it is ineffective due to the prevalence of underage marriages in India.

Child marriage is a violation of a woman's human rights, but early marriages should also be considered a public health concern since they have a negative influence on a woman's physical and mental health. It is critical to stop the trend of early weddings in families since, even in metropolitan regions, women are married off as soon as they turn 18, stifling their desire to finish their education and develop a job. As India advances, there is a need for parity in the legal age of marriage for men and women, which would be another step toward equality. The central government's decision is admirable, but the legislation has to be enforced more strictly.

References:
  • http://164.100.47.4/BillsTexts/LSBillTexts/Asintroduced/163_2021_ls_Eng.p df
  • https://legislative.gov.in/sites/default/files/A2007-06.pdf
  • https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/the-idea-and-the-criticism-of- raising-the-marriageable-age-of-women-101640264434464.html
  • https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/raising-legal-age-for-marriage- for-women-law-reasons-criticism-7675447/

Written By: Arya Srijan Verma,
BA.LLB 3rd year,New Law College,Bharati Vidyapeeth,Pune

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