Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriage (Amendment) Act: A Menace for the Children?
BY MANSI VERMA
GNLU (2nd Year)
Child marriage has always been a menace to the development of rural societies and in all circumstances has led to exploitation of the girl child. According to the UNICEF 2020 data, India has almost 223 million child brides in the country and 102 million of them were married off before they turned 15. Almost 115 million child brides live in the five states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh accounted for the highest population of child brides amounting to a staggering 36 million. The study also found that girls from rural and poorer households had a greater risk of getting married and most of the child brides came from such familial backgrounds. Rajasthan accounted for 15 million child brides.
Recently, Rajasthan amended its Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act, 2009. Earlier the laws stipulated that it was the duty of the parties to the marriage to submit a memorandum on their marriage to the registrar if they were both above 21 years and if any of the parties were younger, the parents did so in their behalf. Now with the coming of the amendment, this age limit has been reduced to 18 years for girls.
Before understanding the controversy surrounding this legislation, we need a little background and context about the laws surrounding child marriages in India. The prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 deals with the provisions regarding prohibition of materialisation child marriages.
LET’S TALK ABOUT THE LAW
The above-mentioned legislation states that regarding the definition of a child, a male under 21 years and a female under 18 years are considered child for the purposes of the act. Solemnisation or abetting the solemnisation of child marriages is a punishable offence if the abettor had reasons to believe otherwise.
Child marriages are not void but rather voidable at the option of either parties within two years of after attaining the age of majority. This peculiarity was pointed out by the Supreme Court in popular cases like Independent Thought v. Union of India and Lajja Devi v. State (NCT of Delhi). This prohibition of child marriage legislation is an all encompassing legislation which takes precedence over the personal laws of specific communities.
The concern with this amendment has been rightfully raised by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights. The issue is that the Rajasthan previously stated that “it is the duty of the parties to the marriage to submit a memorandum on their marriage to the registrar if they were both above 21 years and if younger then it is the duty of the parents or the guardians.” Now the age for the female has been reduced to 18 years. So, the concern is that this legislation seems to condone registration of marriage for girls whose age is less than 18 years by making it very explicit that even when the female is less than 18 years old, her marriage can be registered by her parents or guardians. This is prohibited by the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act.
The registration of marriage of minors is done for a number of reasons. It helps in establishing the legal rights of the parties in a marriage, helps in prosecution of perpetrators who enabled the solemnisation of the marriage and establish the rights of the female to residence and maintenance. However, something logically concerning is this that why would parents register the marriage of the parties if they are children and invite FIR’s upon themselves. This is one of the biggest concerns with the legislation. It makes sense for the guardian or parents of the minor parties in a marriage to keep all of it out of records and save themselves from a legal action because registration of marriages of minors is not compulsory.
In India, Child Marriage is prohibited but once solemnised, it is not automatically void but rather voidable at the option of the parties. Legislations like the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriage Act, 2006 raise concerns about the intent of the law makers. The amendment in the legislation is concerning as it is made without a convincing rationale and seeks to have an effect detrimental to the rights of children particularly girls who are already at a higher risk of being married away at an early age than their male counterparts. These forms of legislation need to be addressed at a larger scale.
The Times of India
ANSWERS OF QUESTIONS OF THE YT VIDEO ON
1. Answer is b. Since under the new Rajasthan Legislation, the boy would have to be 21 and girls would have to be 18 to register themselves. If their age is lower then their parents or guardians would have to do so for them.
2. Answer is a. Under the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriage Act, the boy would be eligible to register himself at the age of 21 and the girl would be eligible to do so at the age of 18. In this case the boy is 20 years old whereas the girl is 18 so under the new legislation, she is eligible to get herself registered but the boy is not.
3. Answer is b. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act came into force on 1st November 2007 by replacing the Restraint of Child Marriage Act 1929.