On 4th January 2019, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) held a symposium on preventing child marriages: “Preventing Child Marriages is Critical to Achieve SDGS”. Saumya Dadoo presented on the law relating to child marriage on behalf of the Centre for Law and Policy Research.
Summary of Proceedings:
First, an event organiser introduced the issues. Drawing upon the words of Mahatma Gandhi, they called for the eradication of child marriage.
Second, Nina Nayak highlighted disparities in the 2011 Census carried out by the Government of India, which point to a higher than accounted for number of child marriages. She elucidated the various causes (such as lack of education) and effects (such as malnutrition) of child marriage. She concluded by emphasising the necessity for tackling “these evils at their root”.
Third, IMAGE presented on the need for action oriented programmes that strive to achieve the sustainable development goals and that only 40% of child marriages are recorded. This rift is further enhanced by the correlation between children who drop-out of schools and the incidence of child marriages.
Fourth, Suchitra Rao threw light on the vagaries of the law despite Justice Shivraj Patel’s Report that made several recommendations to eradicate the same. She perused the legislations imperative to this end, specifically the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, Protection of Children from Sexual offences Act, 2012 [“PCMA”] and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. While doing so, she discussed the problematic aspects of these laws, such as the provision for mandatory reporting, annulment of marriages, and the criminalization of adolescent sexuality.
Fifth, Saumya Dadoo from CLPR made a presentation on the PCMA and its implementation in Karnataka. She also gave an overview of the 2016 Amendments to the PCMA in Karnataka. The 2016 Amendments have many concerns and she outlined some of the concerns with the Amendment and the PCMA in general:
- The lack of clarity on whether after the amendment, marriages would be void or whether a court declaration would be needed to declare a marriage as void.
- The necessity for maintenance/other marital reliefs to girls, which should not be limited to passing of a decree of a void marriage.
- The necessity to increase the time period within which the marriage may be annulled and to provide legal support to girls.
- Sensitization and training for lawyers and judicial officers to grant injunctions and on the provisions of the PCMA.
The symposium concluded with a lively debate on the role of child marriage prohibition officers, adolescent sexuality, legal hurdles and the necessity to address this deeply entrenched practice which violates girls’ rights to health, reproductive rights and life.
The symposium was a part of NIMHANS’s XXXVII Annual National Conference of Indian Society of Professional Social Work.