As defined by UNICEF, Child Marriage is a marriage before 18 years of age and considers this practice as a violation of human rights. Child Marriage has been an age-old issue and has had religious and social sanctions. Some of the harmful consequences of such child marriage are that, child losses opportunities for education and segregation from family and friends, sexual exploitation, early pregnancy and health risks, child more vulnerable to domestic violence, higher infant mortality rate, low weight babies, pre-mature birth etc. Hence, for the eradication of practice of Child marriage, Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 was enacted.
But the Act had some shortcomings like it aimed only at restraining solemnization of child marriages and not its prevention or prohibition, procedures to act against the solemnization of child marriage were very cumbersome and time consuming, and it did not identify authorities responsible for preventing child marriages. Thus, this act was repealed by Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 which came into effect on 1 November 2007.
Definitions in the Act:-
- Under section 2(b) of the Act, “child marriage” means a marriage to which either of the contracting parties is a child and “child” means a person who, if a male, has not completed twenty-one years of age, and if a female, has not completed eighteen years of age.
- Contracting parties means either of the parties whose marriage is or is about to be solemnized
Child Marriage to be Voidable:-
- Under section 3(1) of the Act, every child marriage, whether solemnized before or after the commencement of the Act, shall be voidable at the option of the contracting parties who was a child at the time of the marriage.
- A contracting party may file a petition for annulling a child marriage by a decree of nullity in the District Court and if the contracting party is a minor at the time of filing of the petition then the petition may be filed through his/her guardian.
- Limitation Period- The Petition must be filed before the child filing the petition completes 2 years of attaining majority.
- The District Court shall pass an order directing the contracting parties and their parents or guardians to return to each other such money, valuables, ornaments and other gifts received on the occasion of the marriage.
Provision for maintenance:-
- Under section 4(1) of the Act, the District Court may also make an interim or final order directing the male contracting party or his parent or guardian in case if he is a minor, to pay maintenance to the female contracting party until her remarriage.
- The amount of maintenance shall be determined with regards to the needs of the child, lifestyle and means of income of the paying party and the amount of maintenance can be paid monthly or in lump sum.
- In case the female contracting party has filed the petition then, the District Court may make an order as to her residence until her remarriage.
Custody and maintenance of Children of Child marriage:-
- Under section 5(2) of the Act, while granting the custody of the child, the welfare and best interest of the Child shall be the paramount consideration.
- The District Court may also make an order for providing maintenance to the child by a party to the marriage, their parents or guardian.
Legitimacy of the Children born of child marriage:-
- Under section 6 of the Act, every child begotten or conceived of such marriage before the decree is made shall be deemed to a legitimate child for all purposes.
Marriage of a minor child to be void:-
- Under section 12 of the Act, a marriage of a child shall be null and void if the minor:-
- is taken or enticed out of the keeping of the lawful guardian
- is by force compelled or by deceitful means induced to go from any place
- is sold for the purpose of marriage
- is married and after which sold or trafficked or used for immoral purposes
- Under section 14 of the Act, any child marriage solemnized in contravention of an injunction order shall be void.
Child Marriage Prohibition Officer:-
- Under section 16(1) of this Act, State Government shall appoint officer(s) to be known as Child Marriage Prohibition Officer with notification and with area specified.
- Followings shall be the duty of the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer, under section 16(3) of this Act:
- to prevent solemnization of Child Marriage by taking such action as he may deem fit
- to collect evidence for the effective prosecution of persons contravening the provision of this Act
- to advise individuals or residents or locality not to indulge in promoting, helping, aiding or allowing the solemnization of Child Marriage
- to create awareness of the evil which results from Child Marriage
- to furnish such periodical returns and statistics as the State Government may direct
- to discharge such other functions and duties as may be assigned to him by the State Government
- State Government may also request:
- a respectable member of the locality with a record of social service or,
- an officer of the Gram Panchayat or Municipality or,
- or an officer of the Government or any public sector undertaking or,
- an office bearer of any non-governmental organization
to assist the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer and the officer shall be bound to act accordingly.
- Under section 16(4) of this Act, the State Government invest the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer with such powers of a police officer subject to such conditions and limitations as may be specified in the notification.
imprisonment.withHere, no women shall be punishable
- Under section 13(10) of this Act, whoever knowing that an injunction has been issued against him disobeys such injunction shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment extending to 2 years or with fine extending to one lakh rupees or both.
- Under section 15 of the Act, an offence punishable under this Act shall be cognizable and non-bailable.
Here, no women shall be punishable with imprisonment.
- any person having charge of the child, whether as a parent or guardian or in any other capacity, lawful or unlawful
- any member of an organization or association of persons who does any act to promote the marriage or permits it to be solemnized, or negligently fails to prevent it from being solemnized,
- attending or participating in a child marriage
- Under section 9 of the Act, if a male adult above 18 years of age contracts a child marriage shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment extending to 2 years or with fine extending to one lakh rupees or both.
- Under section 10 of the Act, whoever performs , conducts, directs or abets any child marriage shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment extending to 2 years or with fine extending to one lakh rupees unless he proves that he had reasons to belief that the marriage was not a child marriage.
- Under section 11 of the Act, when a child contracts a child marriage, following persons/ organizations shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment extending to 2 years or with fine extending to one lakh rupees:
- Under section 13 of this Act, on an application of Child Marriage Prohibition Officer or on a complaint from any person (or on a suo motu cognizance), a judicial magistrate of first class or a Metropolitan Magistrate shall issue an injunction against any person including a member of an organization or association prohibiting such marriage.
- Before issuing an injunction against any person or member of an organization or association, the Court shall previously give notice to them or an opportunity to show cause against the issuing of such injunction.
- Under section 13(4) of this Act, for preventing solemnization of mass child marriages on certain days, the District Magistrate shall be deemed to be the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer with all its powers.
Injunction prohibiting Child Marriage:-