Linkan Subuddhi, a software developer with a leading USA-based IT company in Noida, opposed a Child Marriage in India. Was severely thrashed, now in ICU.
A couple of days ago, I stumbled upon a shocking news that techie tries to stop child marriage in Noida, and was severely thrashed. I was shocked, surprised and even disillusioned as to how in this 21st century, Indians can behave this ways. This made me quite sad.
I think crimes against women in India are quite common. Discrimination between sexes,acid attacks,sexual assault are so common because still a particular section of people consider them as secondary citizen and don’t give them freedom to think ,express and speak.When a family in which the girl child is born don’t support her then what could we expect from people outside.Society is simply the reflection our own biases.
Coming back to the said incident, the 15 year old girl seeks help from Linkan Subuddhi, is a software developer with a leading USA-based IT company and also associated with some NGO. The techie was attacked with a knife and bricks by the prospective groom and by the minor’s mother. Linkan is still critical and is in ICU.
What is the mindset of people, when they can’t see the welfare of their daughter? Are the concerns of the parents regarding a Girl’s safety, if left maiden till adulthood, real or are they simply their reluctance to give the daughter the same opportunities as a son?
But before delving into the question at length, lets have a detailed look at the Legal framework in India with respect to Child Marriage.
Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 popularly known as the Sarda Act after its sponsor Rai Sahib Harbilas Sarda to the British India Legislature in India was passed on 28 September 1929, fixed the age of marriage for girls at 14 years and boys at 18 years. It came into effect six months later on April 1, 1930 and it applies to all of British India, not just to Hindus. It was a result of social reform movement in India. The legislation was passed by the British Indian Government.
Thus the child marriage restraint act is India is close to two centuries old now. But still we see unimaginable cruelty towards those who dare to speak against the child marriage. Why?
Reasons for the prevalence of Child Marriages in India
A girl child is generally considered a burden on the father. This is the general societal mindset towards a girl Child. As a consequence, traditionally the attitude of the society has been to get their daughters married as early as possible.
1) Child Marriage in India means Less Dowry
The justification used by parents and the community is that child marriage helps as the bride’s parents have to pay lower dowry, when the bride and the groom are young. This may not be that wrong. In societies where Child marriages are prevalent, this particular perception is seen working. In Bihar and Rajasthan for instance, the parents of girls as young as 4-5 year olds are seen competing with one another to catch a groom (also 9-10 year old), so that they are not left left in a disadvantage later on. The tradition has such a support of the society and hence the politicians & bureaucrats; that even when dowry of any denomination is a crime under the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961, no one cares.
The groom side is not innocent in this bargain. The demand for a younger bride from the Groom’s family also creates an incentive for families to marry the girl child early and avoid high dowry payments for older girls.
2) Safety of the Girl Child
In a patriarchal society like India, there are real safety issues for a Girl. Well off middle class may not understand this threat, but those living in slums in urban areas, do face real safety concerns with respect to their daughters. One way to protect the girl from eve teasing, sexual violence is to is to marry her early. This is parents’ way of guaranteeing safety of their daughter. Now, I’m not saying married girls are not eve teased or assaulted, but still vermillion and a bindi gives an umbrella of protection, when concrete protection doesn’t exist.
3) Society’s preference for Chastity
The Indian society across religions, castes and ethnicity gives incentive to girl’s chastity. A Early marriage is a way to ensure chastity and virginity of the bride.
4) Early marriage secures Girl’s future socially and economically
Lack of education and awareness about the consequences of the child marriage, preferential treatment to sons, lack of funds at the disposal of the Governments, poor implementation of the existing laws, lack of will and action on the part of the administration, and last but not the least, the lack of respect for women in general in Indian society, are important reasons for the continuation of child marriage.
Consequences of Child Marriage for the Girl, Boy and the Nation
In India, many of us have a tendency to see money corruption the biggest of the evils. When the fact of the matter is: Corruption is merely a symptom of our failings as humans. If we Indians somehow see and reform our personal improprieties, then the money corruption will simply scale down.
What personal improprieties I’m referring to? Not treating girls and boys equally, not allowing wives to have and build their careers as husbands do, not giving value to the education of a girl (can be your daughter, sister, girlfriend or wife or can be any other woman) and not giving the woman the right to speak, not teaching both girls and boys to have a healthy respect for each other as complementary individuals.
RTE (Right to Education Act 2010), ensures all children having a fundamental right to Education. Earlier, it was a Directive principle. Even when many of us tend to underestimate this Act, it’s a landmark legislation. Every Child has a right to care and protection, so that he/she can develop and grow into a complete and full individual, regardless of his/her social and economic situation. RTE ensures that. As Education is what differentiates us from animals and makes us more confident of our rights and responsibilities. Unfortunately, Child marriage is a big obstacle in achieving this, as by child marriage the parents and the society not only curtails the girl, but also the boy, by ending their choice wrt life’s most important decision.
Child marriages denies children their basic rights to good health, nutrition, education and freedom from violence, abuse and exploitation. When the person in the marriage are children their body and mind are put to grave and heinous danger. Most often the child is not even aware of what really awaits her/him as a consequence.
Marriage by its very institutions imposes certain social responsibility and the persons in it. It also provides the legal sanction for engaging in sexual activity and procreation. This amount to sanction for child sexual abuse and rape.
Child Marriage resulting in early motherhood means, placing both the young mother and her baby at risk. This leads to increase in infant mortality and maternal mortality.
To conclude, Child Marriage in India is more of a social thing, than the legal one. And there are many parties to it. The Counselor Psychologist at Saarthi Trust and UNICEF, Kriti Bharti, too admits that Child marriage in India is a tough thing to discourage, as the tradition has many parties to it.
I think, the Child marriage in India is an issue, which needs a sincere debate. The debate must not simply touch the issue of Child marriage, but other traditions like female foeticide, partial treatment to sons, as well. This debate must have the participation of those young men and women in India who see themselves as the flag bearer of change. Don’t say for others, but this group can be the game changer here, if it starts seeing their future partner or spouse as a friend; and not as a Husband or Wife.
Leave you with a detailed look on THE PROHIBITION OF CHILD MARRIAGE ACT, 2006
Enacted by Parliament in the Fifty-seventh Year of the Republic of India as follows
1.(1)This Act may be called the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.
(2) It extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir; and it applies also to all citizens of India without and beyond India:Provided that nothing contained in this Act shall apply to the Residnets of the Union territory of Pondicherry.
Child marriages to be voidable at the option of contracting party being a child.
(a) “child” means a person who, if a male, has not completed twenty-one year of age, and if a female, has not completed eighteen years of age;
(b) “child marriage” means a marriage to which either of the contracting parties is a child;
(c) “contracting party”, in relation to a marriage, means either of the parties whose marriage is or is about to be thereby solemnized;
(d)”Child Marriage Prohibition Officer” includes the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer appointed under sub-section (1) of section 16;
(e) “district court” means, in any area for which a Family Court established under section 3 oft he Family Courts Act, 1984 exists, such Family Court, and in any area for which there is no Family Court but a city civil court exists, that court and in any other area, the principal civil court of original jurisdiction and includes any other civil court which may be specified by the State Government, by notification inthe Official Gazette, as having jurisdiction in respect of the matters dealt with in this Act;
(j) “minor” means a person who, under the provisions of the Majority Act, 1875 is to be deemed not to have attained his majority.
3. (I) Every child marriage, whether solemnized before or after the commencement of this Act, shall be voidable at the option of the contracting party who was a child at the time of the marriage:
Provided that a petition for annulling a child marriage by a decree of nullity may be filled in the district court only by a contracting party to the marriage who was a child at the time of the marriage.
(2) If at the time of filing a petition, the petitioner is a minor, the petition may be filed through his or her guardian or next friend along with the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer.
(3)The petition under this section may be filed at any time but before the child filing the petition completes two years of attaining majority.
(4)While granting a decree of nullity under this section,the district court shall make an order directing both the parties to the marriage and their parents or their guardians to return to the other party, his or her parents or guardian, as the case may be, the money, valuables,ornaments and other gifts received on the occasion of the marriage by them from the other side, or an amount equal to the value of such valuables, ornaments, other gifts and money:Provided that no order under this section shall be passed unless the concerned parties have been given notices to appear before the district court and show cause why such order should not be passed.
4. (1) While granting a decree under section 3, the district court may also make an interim or final order directing the male contracting party to the child marriage, and in case the male contracting party to such marriage is a minor, his parent or guardian to pay maintenance to the female contracting party to the marriage until her remarriage.
(2) The quantum of maintenance payable shall be determined by the district court having regard to the needs of the child, the lifestyle enjoyed by such child during her marriage and the means of income of the paying party.
(3) The amount of maintenance may be directed to be paid monthly or in lump sum.
(4) In case the party making the petition under section 3 is the female contracting party,the district court may also make a suitable order as to her residence until her remarriage.
5. (1) Where there are children born of the child marriage, the district court shall make an appropriate order for the custody of such children.
(2) While making an order for the custody of a child under this section, the welfare and best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration to, be given by the district court.
(3) An order for custody of a child may also include appropriate directions for giving to the other party access to the child in such a manner as may best serve the interests of the child, and such other orders as the district court may, in the interest of the child, deem proper.
(4) The district court may also make an appropriate order for providing maintenance to the child by a party to the marriage or their parents or guardians.
6. Notwithstanding that a child marriage has been annulled by a decree of nullity under-section 3, every child begotten or conceived of such marriage before the decree is made,whether born before or after the commencement of this Act,shall be deemed to be a legitimate child for all purposes.
7. The district court shall have the power to add to, modify or revoke any order made under section 4 or section 5 and if there is any change in the circumstances at any time during the pendency of the petition and even after the final disposal of the petition.
8. For the purpose of grant of reliefs under sections 3, 4 and 5, the district court having jurisdiction shall include the district court having jurisdiction over the place where the defendant or the child resides, or where the marriage solemnized or where the parties last resided together or the petitioner is residing on the date of presentation of the petition.
9. Whoever, being a male adult above eighteen years of age, contracts a child marriage shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment which may extend to two years or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees or with both.
10. Whoever performs, conducts, directs or abets any child marriage shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment which may extend to two years and shall be liable to fine which may extend to one lakh rupees unless he proves that he had reasons to believe that the marriage was not a child marriage.