A New Law In Rajasthan Asks For Registrations Of All Marriages, Including Child Marriage. Erm, What Again?
We, as a country, want to take pride in being modern, open-minded, accepting, etc. Yet, there are still some traditions from the past that we blindly follow. For instance, the tradition of child marriage that is prevailing in Rajasthan is still an issue that we as a society haven’t been able to overcome. There are still families that believe in child marriage, even after it is considered to be illegal by our judiciary system. Now, I’m not saying that the cases haven’t been reduced or there are no steps being taken to eradicate this practice, but the fact remains that one small, poor decision can ruin the efforts that have been made for so many years. I’m talking about a new bill passed in Rajasthan that requires all marriages to be registered, including child marriages. Erm, but aren’t they illegal?
On Friday, the Assembly passed The Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriage (Amendment) Bill with a small tweak in Section 8 of a 2009 Act. The tweaked law states that “if the bride is under 18 and the bridegroom is under 21” then their parents must register their marriage within 30 days of the event. In the older version, the age criterion for both bride and the groom was 21 years. When this change was addressed in the Assembly, the opposition literally staged a walkout.
Rajendra Rathore, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Rajasthan Assembly, expressed his viewpoints on this change that will validate child marriage. He said, “By amending the Marriage Registration Act, they have opened the floodgates by saying that if the bride is below 18 and the groom below 21, their marriage can be registered by just application… This will increase and give validation to what is a social evil. How can the government do it?”
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As per NDTV, in response to this, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s government observed that the opposition was misinterpreting the new law. The government is following the Supreme Court rule that passed in 2006 stating that all marriages are to be registered including the ones where minors are involved. And maintaining a public record will make it easier for them to identify child marriages in Rajasthan and have documentary evidence against them.
The abovementioned justification, from the perspective of collecting damning evidence against child marriage perpetrators does makes sense to a certain extent. The fact is that the National Family Health Survey Data of 2015-2016, reveals that the number of cases of child marriages has decreased considerably in Rajasthan since the state introduced the Child Marriage Prohibition Act in 2006.
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However, you cannot deny that this provision in the bill or even as taken from the original Supreme Court mandate, makes it look to the laymen like child marriage is acceptable as long as you register it. I don’t think those who are aware that it is illegal and still won’t to practice it would go ahead and register the marriage anyway. Maybe it is time a stricter, clearer mandate that does not tiptoe around this social evil be implemented. Especially in this post-pandemic time, when chances are that lack of sufficient financial, educational or employment resources might force families to marry off their daughters before they reach the legal age. Or even to marry off their sons in the same way, just to get some dowry money in.