Important Steps that should be taken for Preventing Child Marriages in India are given below:
As mentioned earlier the policy of the Child Marriage Restraint Act or other statutes is not to invalidate child marriages but to punish their solemnization. The offences under the Act are, however, non-cognizable, and no woman is punishable with imprisonment.
There are large scale violations of the Act particularly in the rural areas. The non-cognizable character of the offence is a serious hindrance to the effective enforcement of this law. The State of Gujarat amended the Child Marriage Restraint Act by making it a cognizable offence.
Provisions have also been made for the appointment of a Child Marriage Prevention Officer. These changes have been welcomed by the Pushpaben Committee. We recommend that all offences under the Child Marriage Restraint Act should be made cognizable and special officers appointed to enforce the law.
Another effective approach to this problem is to render such marriage void. But in the present social and economic conditions such a rigorous measure may create more problems than it seeks to solve. We suggest that it should be envisaged as a future goal.
1. To provide the girl the right to repudiate the marriage on attaining majority on lines similar to the “option of puberty” under Muslim Law;
Note: A Muslim girl married during her minority is entitled to dissolution of marriage if the following facts are established:
(i) That she was given in marriage by her father or other guardian before she attained the age of 15;
(ii) That she repudiated the marriage before she attained the age of 18;
(iii) That the marriage was not consummated.
In our view the right to repudiate the marriage on attaining majority should be made available to girls in all communities whether the marriage was consummated or not.
2. A general legal provision analogous to section 38 of the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1865 which provides that “no suit shall be brought in any court to enforce any marriage between Parsees, or any contract connected with or arising out of any such marriage, if, at the date of the institution of the suit, the husband shall not have completed the age of 16 years, or the wife shall not have completed the age of 14 years.”
Under the Egyptian Civil Code, a marriage in contravention of the rule relating to age of the parties (completion of 18 years and 15 years in case of males and females respectively) though not invalid per se will not be registered.
Under Article 99 of the Code such a marriage will not be recognized by the Court for the purpose of granting any relief, except a claim relating to legitimacy of issues.
We recommend legislation prohibiting courts from granting any relief in respect of a marriage solemnized in violation of the age requirements prescribed by law unless both the parties have completed the age of 18 years.