Child Marriage means marriage between minors or marriage of a minor girl with an adult male or a minor male with an adult female, which is illegal and a punishable offence. But still this practice is widely practiced in India specially in Rajasthan, Bihar, West Bengal. And these types of marriages are voidable at the option of parties, this discretion is given to the parties because injustice has been done to them, they can void the marriage after the time of marriage or also when they become adult. In India we have provision regarding age for marriage like 18 for female and 21 for males but malpractice is still prevalent in society for child marriage.
In Child Marriage it is the female who faces lot of problems, restrictions and discrimination because they have to shift to the husband's house and it further decreases the possibility of access to education and women empowerment.
Why Early/Child Marriage is practiced?
Poverty/ Socio-economic Conditions
Social customs and traditions
Lower status is given to the girls and considering them as financial burden
Low level of education of girls
Now the question arises why it is widely practiced in some of the regions, even after the existing laws, as we know India have a huge population with a good percentage of people under poverty so, when a girl is born in family then it is hard for their parents to do good parenting or provide her good life and they treat her as burden so they decide to handover the liability by getting her married and handover her to the male family. And the male family is in the mindset that they will get a free maid for the housework and it is assumed that the female if they didn't get the puberty than they can be moulded in anyway and asper the family needs and wants. Also, culture and tradition play important role in this context because people are practicing these things from ancient time so they think that it is now justified and became acceptable.
Consequences of Child Marriage
Lack of women empowerment
Pre-mature pregnancy which affects the health of the girls, even sometimes their body can't hold and they die and risk of unhealthy baby is very high, also because of marriage in younger age they stay unheard from education. They become fully dependent on their husband and cannot take their own decisions which leads them into vicious cycle of housewife. Their full life becomes hell of restrictions like you cannot do this, you cannot do that, you have to behave like this, this is your duty, you cannot give incites in men's conversation, your duty is to bear all the pains and smile.
Provisions Regarding Child marriage in India
The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929/ Sarda Act
The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006
We have provision regarding child marriage for the prohibition of child marriage, The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 which prohibits solemnization of marriage of a boy who is less than 21 years of age arid a girl who is less than 18 years of age.
Also, an international convention, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is signed by India on 30 July 1980 which attempts to end discrimination against women.
Regarding prohibition of child marriage magistrate has also been empowered to issue injunction to immediately stop such marriage when he gets the knowledge about the same is taking place.
Data & Reports
According to the data, the number of cases registered under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act in 2018 was 501, in 2017 was 395, in 2016 was 326 and in 2015 was 293. According to UNICEF report published in 2005-06, child marriage rates in India were estimated to be around 47% and this figure declined to 27% in 2015-16 according to new report. According to 2011 nationwide census of India, the average age of marriage for women is 21.2. In the age group 15-19, 69.6% of all women surveyed in India had never been married.
These data show us the gradual increase of register of cases which reflect us a positive change in society, people are showing concerns and becoming conscious but still the proportion of register cases and actual cases of child marriage is huge.
Prevention programmes in India
Apni Beti, Apna Dhan (ABAD), which translates to "My daughter, My wealth," is one of India's first conditional cash transfer programmes dedicated to delaying young marriages across the nation. In 1994, the Indian government implemented this programme in the state of Haryana. On the birth of a mother's first, second, or third child, they are set to receive ₹ 500, within the first 15 days to cover their post-delivery needs. Along with this, the government gives ₹ 2,500, to invest in a long-term savings bond in the daughter's name, which can be later cashed for ₹ 25,000, after her 18 birthday. She can only receive the money if she is not married. Anju Malhotra, an expert on child marriage and adolescent girls said of this programme, "No other conditional cash transfer has this focus of delaying marriage... It's an incentive to encourage parents to value their daughters."
To sum it up, a marriage must be a sacred union between mature individuals and not an illogical institution which compromises with the future of our children. The problem must be solved at the grassroots level beginning with ending poverty and lack of education. This way, people will learn better and do better.