Updated: Feb 20, 2022
Written by: Umang Satija
One of the many aspects that have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic is children and their wellbeing. Child marriage is a by-product of lack of education, poverty, unemployment, gender inequality, harmful traditional norms and customs, and so on. The vicious cycle of poverty and child marriages has been affecting India for a long time. In most cases, Girl children are the main victims of this detrimental practice. The pandemic which has hit severely around the world has hit the poor section of society more drastically. Unfortunately, laws governing child marriage seem to be failing.
In India, child marriage has been practised for ages, with young children and teenagers being married off before they are physically and mentally mature. Child marriages are a grave violation of human rights that leave permanent physical, psychological, and emotional scars. Within the home, girl children are vulnerable to sexual abuse, unintended pregnancy, domestic violence, and hence emotional stress. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 governs matters relating to child marriage in India.
PROVISIONS RELATING TO CHILD MARRIAGE MENTIONED UNDER The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.
WHO IS CONSIDERED AS A CHILD?
Section 2(a) of The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 defines a child as "child" means a person who, if a male, has not completed twenty-one years of age, and if a female, has not completed eighteen years of age.
WHAT IS A CHILD MARRIAGE?
Section 2(b) of the act states that “child marriage” means a marriage to which either of the contracting parties is a child.
VALIDITY OF CHILD MARRIAGE
Section 3(1) of the act, talks about the validity of child marriages in India. Child marriage is voidable at the option of the contracting party being a child. The person who was a child at the time of marriage has the option to make the marriage void irrespective of the marriage being solemnized before or after the commencement of the act.
Section 3(2), 3(4), 3(5) of the act talk about the petition for annulling a child marriage.
Only a contracting party who was a child at the time of the marriage can file an annulment petition. If the petitioner is a minor, his guardian can file the petition with the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer on his behalf. The petition under this section may be filed at any time but before filing the petition, the child completes two years of attaining majority.
The parties to the marriage, as well as their parents/guardians, are asked to return valuable ornaments, gifts obtained at the time of marriage from the other side, or an amount equal to such valuable items, as the case may be, while giving a decree of nullity.
MAINTENANCE AND RESIDENCE TO FEMALE CONTRACTING PARTY TO CHILD MARRIAGE
Section 4 of the act states that the district court can order the male to pay the maintenance and in case the male is a minor, his parents or guardians shall do it to the female contracting party until her remarriage. The quantum of maintenance payable shall be determined by the district court by taking into account the needs and lifestyle of the child and her means of income. The amount is required to be paid in a lump sum or monthly as suitable until her remarriage.
LEGITIMACY OF CHILD BORN
Section 6 of the act states that the child born is legitimate.
Section 5 states the custody of the child has to be decided by the court.
An offense under this act is cognizable and non-bailable.
Section 9 - Anyone being a male adult above eighteen years of age contracts a child marriage (girl has to be a child);
Section 10 - Anyone who performs conducts, directs, or abets (unless he proves that he had reasons to believe that the marriage was not a child marriage);
Section 11 - Anyone who has charge of a child (parent/guardian or any other capacity) does any act or permits or fails to prevent-including attending or participating;
Will be punished for Rigorous Imprisonment which can be extended to 2 years and shall be liable to fine which can be extended to ₹ 1 lakh.
Lajja Devi V State of Uttar Pradesh
The Delhi high court stated that The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 prevails over personal laws.
Seema Begum V State of Karnataka (writ petition)
In 2013, the Karnataka High Court affirmed the Delhi High Court's judgement in Lajja Devi V State of Uttar Pradesh, holding that the PCMA supersedes personal laws.
Yusuf Ibrahim Mohommad Lokhad V State of Gujrat
The High court of Gujarat observed that "According to the personal law of Muslims, the girl no sooner she attains the puberty or completes the 15 years, whichever is earlier is competent to get married without the consent of her parents."
SITUATION OF CHILD MARRIAGE IN INDIA
One in every three child brides in the world lives in India, according to a report published by the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF). 102 million of the country's 223 million child brides were married before they turned 15. In addition, five states account for more than half of all Indian child brides: Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh. With 36 million child brides, Uttar Pradesh has the biggest population of child brides. In terms of the prevalence of child marriage, India ranks fourth among the eight South Asian countries.
AFTER PANDEMIC EFFECTS
According to a UNICEF research released on International Women's Day, school closures, economic stress, service disruptions, pregnancy, and parental deaths caused by the pandemic are increasing the likelihood of child marriage among the most vulnerable girls. The mind-set that having a daughter is still regarded a piece of bad luck is at the basis of child marriage. Despite the fact that it is now illegal, female foeticide is still practised. Many girl children are forced into human trafficking if they are not married as children.
Equal protection under the law is guaranteed by Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, which is a fundamental right granted to the Indian people. Many girl youngsters, however, do not have the opportunity to exercise their fundamental rights. They are more likely to contract sexually transmitted illnesses, cervical cancer, and mortality during childbirth if they marry at a young age. Premature birth and neonatal death are risks for the offspring. To prevent this problem education and employment should be promoted and awareness should be spread at mass.
 The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 (Act 6 of 2007)  The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act,2006 (Act 6 of 2007) S. 2(b)  The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act,2006 (Act 6 of 2007) S. 3(1)  The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act,2006 (Act 6 of 2007) Ss. 3(2), 3(4), 3(5)  The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 (Act 6 of 2007) S. 4  The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act,2006 (Act 6 of 2007) S. 6  CRI. L. J. 3458::(2013) 1 MARRILJ 196  W.P. No. 75889 of 2013 (GM-RES)  R/CR.MA/13658/2014  Ending of Child Marriage, available at unicef.org/india/media/1176/file (last visited on 3rd June,2021)