Highest incidence of child marriage in Rajasthan: report

Justice Sikri seeks legislative intervention to resolve personal laws with secular Act

Updated - July 08, 2017 04:46 pm IST

Published - June 01, 2017 10:20 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A file photo of an awareness campaign against child marriage in Bikaner, Rajasthan.

A file photo of an awareness campaign against child marriage in Bikaner, Rajasthan.

Even though there has been a decline in child marriage across the country, research by Young Lives in coordination with the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has revealed that Rajasthan has reported the highest incidence of child marriages.

The study, based on the 2011 Census, states that 2.5% of marriages of minor girls were reported in Rajasthan, which is followed by 15 States, including Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Sikkim, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Nagaland, Assam, Maharashtra, Tripura, Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Karnataka

Rajasthan also topped in the percentage (4.69%) of boys marrying below the legal age of 21 years. Thirteen other States reported a higher percentage of child marriages among boys when compared with the national average.

The study, released by Justice A.K. Sikri of the Supreme Court, zeroes in on 70 districts spread across 13 States, which comprise more than 20% of child marriages. It has empirically studied the current situation vis-à-vis various possible factors. No marriage below 10 years of age was reported across the country.

According to the Census study, 12.9% of girls got married in the age of 10-17 years and 43.6% between 18-20 years. However, only 4.9% of boys got married in the 10-17 years age group and 11.2 % in the 18-below 21 age group. “In terms of numbers, we find that 69.5 lakh boys and 51.6 lakh girls have been married before their respective legal age according to Census 2011,” says the report.

The study shows a minor decline of 0.1% in the marriage of minor girls. The decline in rural India, between 2001 and 2011 Census, was marginally higher than in the whole of the country. “However, the incidence of child marriage among girls increased substantially in urban India from 1.78% in 2001 to 2.45% in 2011…the absolute number of girls married below legal age was 5.1 million..,” the report says.

After releasing the report, Justice A. K. Sikri observed that there was a conflict between the “secular” Prevention of the Child Marriage Act (PCMA) and personal laws, which needed legislative intervention for a resolution. However, he declined to comment on the issue of Uniform Civil Code.

Terming it a violation of the fundamental right to a dignified life, as guaranteed by the Constitution, he said child marriage should not be treated only as a social evil. It is an offence under the PCMA, but it is only “voidable” at the girl’s instance after she attains majority.

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