On 6th March 2018, UNICEF reported that there had been a downward trend in child marriages globally. They also found that in the past decade the number of underage marriages in India had nearly halved. The announcement, made a couple of days before International Women’s Day, resonated with CLPR.
Only 6 months ago CLPR had represented Child Rights Trust in the Independent Thought vs Union case. In a unanimous verdict, the Supreme Court had declared that a man was guilty of rape if he had sexual intercourse with his wife if she was below 18 years of age.
The UN finding was covered widely by the press. Reuters reported that the decline in child marriages in India had a direct impact on child marriage rates globally. Al-Jazeera, while celebrating this decline, cautioned that more had to be done and quickly to end this practice. Jayna Kothari was contacted for comments by both the publications. She reiterated the need for more stringent laws which would make child marriages invalid.
2 days before the release of the UN report, the Hindustan Times covered this issue. They reported on the current law – Prohibition of Child Marriages Act – which made child marriages “voidable”. When asked for her opinion, Jayna pointed out that the current law was “toothless”. This was because it was impractical to expect the minor, or her family, to come forward and nullify the marriage.