Child marriage was a rampant practise till recent times in India. Although it is still practised today, since 2006, the Prevention of Child Marriage Act has stated strong measures for criminalizing anybody involved in marrying off a child.
It is important to note that is the groom is below the age of 21 years or if the bride is below the age of 18 years, the marriage will be considered as a child marriage.
Laws against Child Marriage
- A child marriage will be declared null and void by a district court if a minor(under 18 years) was forced or deceived into the child marriage, or if the minor was married off and then sold for trafficking or such immoral activities. In case of annulment of a child marriage, all gifts that were exchanged between families during the marriage must be returned.
- If a male above the age of 18 is the groom in a child marriage, then he could be punished with rigorous imprisonment for 2 years and maybe with a fine upto 1 lakh rupees. This punishment also holds for any male adult who abets, organises or takes part in any way in a child marriage. These are non-bailable offences.
- A district magistrate, having received information, can issue an injunction against a person or an organisation suspected of taking part in child marriages. If a person disobeys the injunction then he is punishable with 2 years of imprisonment. No woman will be jailed for this, but may be fined. Also, if a marraige happens after an injunction, then the marriage will be deemed null and void.
- There are provisions for the maintenance and protection of a bride, who was married off as a child and wants to end the marriage within 2 years of becoming an adult. This will be paid by the groom or his parents/guardians. The court can also give an order to determine where the woman will reside. These orders are valid upto the bride’s remarriage.
- Any child born out of a child marriage is a legitimate child. The custody of the child can be decided in court.
How to report
- Each district is divided into areas, where a Child Marriage protection officer is assigned. The job of this officer is to handle cases of child marriage in the area, carry out investigations, spread awareness against child marriage, and report about organisations or persons who organise child marriages.
- Any person can register a complaint against a child marriage at a police station or to the Child marriage protection officer of the area. The person can also file a petition at a district court regarding any person or organisation who organises child marriages.
- A bride or a groom who was involved in a child marriage can file a petition at a district court for annulment of the marriage. within 2 years of becoming 18 or 21 respectively.
- Application for maintenance and residence orders for a bride, custoy of a child born out of a child marriage etc., can be filed at the district courts.