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Child Marriage

Introduction

Child marriage is an age-old curse that is widely prevalent in our country. Even today, in rural areas, child marriage is widely practiced. The most common reasoning behind this practice is that girls are meant to be in their husband’s house, the sooner this is done the better. Parents usually consider the girl child as a burden. There are also instances where parents sell off their girls in the name of marriage due to financial constraints.

Child marriage is a violation of child rights. There are many reasons for this: children lose their innocence due to child marriage; the education of children, especially girls, suffers as they are not sent to school after marriage; children suffer physically and mentally; girls become mothers at a very young age when their bodies are not prepared for it, thus causing health risks. Early marriage for boys too is a violation of their rights as their education gets affected and they bear the burden of family responsibilities before time.

What the law says about child marriage

As per the child marriage prohibition act 1929, a boy under 21 years of age and a girl below 18 years of age is a child. According to this act, getƫng a child married or participating in it is a punishable crime. The penalty for an individual above 18 years and below 21 years is 15 days imprisonment and a fine of upto Rs 1000. The penalty for an individual above 21 years is 3 months imprisonment and a fine.

Role of panchayat members in mitigating child marriages

As elected representatives of the village, panchayat members can play an important role in preventing child marriage. If they get information about a child marriage taking place, they should inform the police who, upon investigation, can stop this marriage. Panchayat members can disseminate information about this law to the villagers as well as generate awareness among them about the ill-effects on health due to child marriage and how it is a violation of child rights.

They can motivate the community to get their children married at the right age. If they feel it is not possible to stop the marriage from taking place, they can try talking to the parents of the bride and groom. Panchayat members can explain to the parents to delay the marriage until the children reach the lawful marriageable age and send them to school till then.

Source : NCPCR handbook on Safe Childhood Programme for Panchayat members



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