NEW DELHI: To curb the age-old practice of child marriages in India, National Human Rights Commission has recommended to all the states to take strict action against people directly involved in such child marriages.
Ambuj Sharma, Secretary General, NHRC recommended to all the states especially Rajasthan, Haryana, Karnataka, West Bengal, Bihar and others to change the code of conduct rules of Panchayat elections so that if a child marriage takes place in the village, the Sarpanch should be held accountable too.
According to national average, child marriage of girl child has improved drastically from 47.4 percent to 26.8 percent while child marriage of boys varies from 32.3 percent to 20.3 percent now.
“To deter people from participating in such social evils, we have also recommended stricter punishments ranging from cancelling of licences of wedding hall, caterer, man who holds marriage rituals to imprisonment in cases,” Sharma added.
The human rights panel has also mooted to work with priests, father, clerics at the ground level so that they can be educated about the evils of child marriages and their health consequences on the girl child especially.
Pointing towards the inconsistencies in different legal provisions, having a bearing on children and their marriage, Jyotika Kalra, member, NHRC stressed that this need to be identified and synergized to end child marriage in India.
“A law needs to be put in place to make the age of marriage for both the boys and girls uniform in tune with the expressions to this effect at highest levels, including from the Supreme Court as well as the Law Commission of India. It should not be 21 years for the boys and 18 years for the marriage of girls as there is no scientific data to support this difference in their ages,” Kalra added.
The NHRC Member also said that the registration of marriages should be made compulsory.
The main reason for child marriages in India is the socio-economic factors and the lack of literacy, particularly, among the lower strata of society.
Therefore, besides building awareness on the ills of child marriage, the priority should be given to bring uniformity in the legal provisions to end this menace by amending the inherent contradictions and inconsistencies in the provisions of various Acts including the Prohibition on Child Marriage Act, Hindu Marriage Act, The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, The Indian Penal Code provisions to end the inconsistencies and also build awareness.
Number of child marriages on an average