NATIONAL LEGAL RESEARCH DESK
A National Consultation on Prevention of Child Marriage was organized on 25th May 2012 by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD). The main objectives of the consultation were:
- To place the issue of child marriage high on the national agenda for children
- To build a common understanding and framework on child marriage.
- To identify approaches, methods and good practices for preventing child marriage across the country.
- To contribute towards the development of a national strategy on the prevention of child marriage.
- To promote a national partnership/working group/think tank on child marriage
In the closing session, Secretary MWCD concluded the day’s proceedings, highlighting the following for further action:
Vulnerability mapping and focus on certain geographical areas with high prevalence of child marriages was important, and in this, the States would play a proactive role for focussed action. On the legal side, the recommendations of the Law Commission need to be looked up by the Ministry of Women and Child Development. The Ministry should also review the implementation framework for the PCMA. Inter-alia the suggested amendments in PCMA, e g. all marriage before the age of 16 years to be void ab-initio, difference between age limits of girls and boys to be done away with, and Prescribing a minimum punishment for abetment of child marriage may be further considered in future for amending the PCMA, whenever such an exercise is taken up.
The Ministry would issue advisories to the States for considering compulsory registration of marriage, and for preventing elected representatives and Government officials from attending child marriages. The importance of involving civil society needs to be acknowledged for mobilizing key actors on the issue, and States might consider working with the civil society and chalking out a common action plan. It chalking out the common action plan, the focus needs to be on improving the status of women in order to ensure maximum synergy of efforts, rather than addressing merely the symptoms of the deep rooted social malaise of low status of women in society, e.g. just child marriage. Similarly, the Ministry would write to the various Central Departments and Ministries on the importance of coordinated inter-departmental action. The advisory would also underline the importance of strengthening existing platforms and facilities like Mahila Samakhya, Anganwadi workers, Nehru Yuvak Kendras, Panyachati Raj Institutions etc. and involving them strategically. Ministry of Women and Child Development will write to the Ministry of Panchayati Raj urging for increased involvement of Panchayats in:
- Village Child Marriage Prevention and Monitoring Committee
- Involving SHGs/Women’s Group/Aasha, ANM, etc for identification and tracking of vulnerable girls.
- Holding Panchayats/village responsible through group prosecutions.
- There could also be awards/recognition for PRIs/Child Marriage Free Villages, on the lines of Nirmal Gram Puraskar.
The States might consider using the provisions of the Prevention of Child Sexual Offences Bill, 2012 appropriately also as an instrument and deterrent for Child Marriage. It requires to be insisted by the States that the functionaries associated with PCMA at various levels have no choice but to implement the laws of the land, bereft of any emotive issues that they might have in personal capacity, or face penal action for dereliction of duty. The States could consider granting incentives to informers of proposed child marriage without revealing identity of the person. Judicial administration at various levels could consider appointing separate public prosecutors for women and child related cases, and State Legal Services Authorities could have awareness programmes with focus on the victims so that they come forward to avail themselves of such legal services rather than the accused as is felt to be the case at present. MWCD will write to the Ministry of Law, Ministry of Justice and to the National Legal Services Authority accordingly.
All advocacy/media/IEC campaigns aimed at children whether from Education, Health or Economic perspective need to have an element of Child Marriage built into it. Convergence between health (RH) and Prohibitive IEC. Convergence with other issues – dowry, child sex ratio, etc.
Instead of conditional cash incentive schemes targeted at facilitating marriage of individual girls on attaining the legal age, the States could consider supporting group marriages of such persons, as this assists in bringing marriages in public domain and
ensures registration of marriages.
Planned interventions for economic empowerment of adolescent girls and adolescent boys needed to be thought of in a bigger way, by both the Central Government and the States by bringing in opportunities through legal awareness, life skills and employable skills with remunerative returns. This is the crucial target group which can question and stall decisions on their own marriage taken by elders. Involvement of youth-youth groups can be change agents.
Chapters in school curriculum/textbooks could discuss about the socio-legal issues related to status of women and the issue of gender equality, which would include information on child marriage etc. as well.
In particular, a focus on secondary education could make a huge difference. State investment in building schooling nfrastructure, addressing the safety concerns for girls as well as providing for toilets, improving accessibility to schools and also incentivizing school education through more scholarships and hostels for girls could help.
The States could consider holding regular sensitization and trainings for the following groups:
- Child Welfare Committees, Juvenile Justice Boards, Police, Public Prosecutors and Judiciary
- Those who facilitate marriage and provide infrastructure support (jewellers, barbers, pandits, etc)
- Elected Representatives at all levels- Parliamentarians, Legislators, PRI/ULB members, etc.