The recent amendments passed in the Rajasthan assembly to the “Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act 2009” increases the number of marriage officers at the district and block level in addition to ensuring that the death of a married party is intimated to the Government. The 2009 Act had already provided for the registration of child marriages and the amendment act merely reiterates this in Section 8.
Though child marriages are not invalid under the Prohibition of Child Marriages Act, 2006 (PCMA, 2006) the Rajasthan 2009 Act appears to give further legitimacy to child marriages by mandating their registration. The PCMA, 2006 makes parents and guardians of children (excepting women) punishable with imprisonment of up to 2 years and fine if they have promoted the marriage or permitted it to be solemnized either willfully or negligently. It is therefore absurd to think that those who have been made culpable under the PCMA, 2006 will come forward to register marriages under the amended Rajasthan Act. The Rajasthan Government’s intention in revisiting the act is not clear or viable.
Child marriages have definitely increased during the Pandemic and are linked to various social and economic factors, including poverty and unemployment which each Government must address if the phenomenon of child marriage is to be curbed. Child marriages disproportionately impacts and discriminates against girls and makes them vulnerable to domestic violence and marital rape, mortality and morbidity during child birth and hampers their wellbeing and development including education.
The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) has consistently campaigned and struggled against child marriages and is deeply concerned that the core issues relating to child marriages are not being focused upon and dealt with. It calls upon Governments to pay special attention to this issue and take measures to reduce child marriages.