2009 Report on Child Marriage in India
Even though the practice of child marriage is decreasing slowly, its prevalence continues to subsist in India. The practice is highest in the eastern and central regions of the nation. Besides, rural, poor and uneducated girls for all over the nation continue to be highly vulnerable to child marriage. According to a 2009 UNICEF report, ‘State of the World’s Children’, 47% of Indian women between the age of 20 and 24 were married before attaining the legal age of 18. Of this, 56% belonged to the rural areas. The report also stated an alarming fact that 40% of the total child marriages cases in the world occur in India.
Limitations of Existing Child Marriage Laws in India
The Indian Child Marriage Restraint Act fails to adequately punish offenders of the crime. The penalty under the act is as marginal as three months imprisonment. Furthermore, the Act does not take into consideration preparatory ceremonies of child marriages, such as engagements. It is important to penalize such actions as well as these culminate in child marriage.
Finally, the efficacy of child marriage laws in India is diluted by the fact that this offence is such that it cannot be taken into cognizance if one year has lapsed since the date of the alleged offence.
Validity of Child Marriage under the Hindu Law
The scope of validity of a marriage lies beyond the Child Marriage Restraint Act. Under the Hindu Law, a marriage by a minor male is considered valid even if the marriage was not consented by a parent or guardian. The Hindu Law regards marriage a sacrament, not a contract. Consequently, an individual’s minority can impede him or her from incurring contractual obligations; however it cannot hinder the matter of performing necessary "Sanskaras" or marriage rituals.