• Legal proceedings against child marriages are commonly undertaken against elopements whereas forced child marriages often go unpunished.
  • The report — “Child Marriage Prosecutions in India” — brought out by Partners for Law in Development (PLD), a Delhi-based legal resource group, analysed 83 high court and district court verdicts in cases relating to child marriage from 2008 and 2017.
  • These included cases filed under the Prohibition of Child Marriages Act, 2006, as well as legal action initiated under other laws in relation to child marriage such as Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), 2012, and the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

 

Key Findings of Study:

  • The study found that legal prosecution of child marriages was twice as much against elopement or self-arranged marriages by girls with such cases accounting for 65% ( 54 out of a total 83 cases) of the total cases studied. Only 30% of the cases were those of arranged child marriages, and a mere 5% were forced child marriages (such as those that involved kidnapping, enticement or forcible marriage by parents).
  • The punishment for elopement versus forced and arranged child marriages were hugely disproportionate. The former could invite a punishment of 10 years to life imprisonment if convicted for rape under the IPC or a jail of 20 years to a maximum punishment of death under the POCSO Act, whereas the latter under the PCMA comes with no minimum sentence and a maximum sentence of imprisonment for two years and/or a fine.

Child Marriage in India:

  • One in three of the world’s child brides live in India. Of the country’s 223 million child brides, 102 million were married before turning 15.
  • Over half of Indian child brides live in five states: Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Uttar Pradesh is home to the largest population of child brides, with 36 million.
  • Approximately one in four young women in India were married or in union before their 18th birthday.
  • The prevalence of child marriage varies across states and union territories in India. Over 40 per cent of young women were married before turning 18 in Bihar and West Bengal, compared to less than 5 per cent in Lakshadweep.
  • A girl’s risk of child marriage depends on certain background characteristics. Girls who live in rural areas or come from poorer households are at greater risk, and a higher proportion of child brides are found among those with little or no education.
  • The majority of young women who married in childhood gave birth as adolescents. Child brides go on to have larger families compared to women who marry later.