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CHILD Protection & Child Rights » IV. National Mechanisms » Child Related Legislations » Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006

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Child marriage has been an issue in India for a long time. Because of its root in traditional, cultural and religious practises it has been a hard battle to fight. Child marriage is also associated with other problems like dowry and child widowhood. It is also associated with malnutrition, poor health of mothers and high fertility and hence over-population. The following is an overview of the act.

According to the act a child is a male who has not completed twenty one years of age and a female who has not completed eighteen years of age. Child marriage is a contract between any two people of which either one or both parties is a child. Child marriage that took place before or after this act can be made void by the person who was a child at the time of marriage. But the marriage must be voided before the person who was a child completes their second year of maturity.

A court can decree that if it is the husband that is asking for a void of marriage than he or his family are responsible to pay for the maintenance of the girl until she is remarried. The amount of maintenance is to be determined by the district court. If there were any children born of the marriage, it is the court discretion as to where the child shall reside, with which parent, and how visits will be organised all in the best interest of the child. The court may also decide for one of the parties to provide maintenance for the child. Every child conceived before the voiding of the marriage is considered a legitimate child.

If a male adult above eighteen years contracts a child marriage shall be punishable unto two years imprisonment and/or a fine with may extend to Rs. 1 lakh. The same punishment will be given to person who performs, conducts or directs a child marriage. Unless proved otherwise, the parents or guardian of the child are considered to have failed to prevent the child marriage and hence are also held accountable.

There are certain situations in which a child marriage is deemed void even without a petition from one of the parties. If a child was detained away from her/his parents or guardians, forced to go to a different place, sold into marriage, or made to marry after which they are used for immoral purposes or trafficked then that marriage is considered to be null and void. The court has the power after the application of an officer or any person to issue an injunction prohibiting a suspected child marriage against any person, including a member of an organisation or an association of people. The court may also act against a suspected child marriage on its own motion but must provide the person/association with time to respond to the injunction. Ignoring a notice or injunction is a punishable offence. If the marriage is still carried out after the injunction, it is automatically voided.

The act calls for the instatement of a Child Marriage Prohibition Officer, who is responsible for ensuring no child marriage takes place in their jurisdiction by approaching the courts for an injunction, collecting evidence against people, creating awareness about the negative effects of child marriage, collect data concerning child marriages, etc. A child marriage prohibition officer is deemed a public servant in this act.

Rules of this act are to be made by the respective state governments. The act calls for the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 to be amended to meet its provisions as well as the repeal of The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929.

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