In a move that will bring relief to thousands of child brides in India, the WCD Ministry is aiming to make child marriages completely void. It has decided to move the cabinet to make amendments in the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA), 2006, to make it more effective.

According to a report in Indian Express, an official from WCD Ministry said, “We have circulated a draft Cabinet note that proposes to make child marriage ‘void ab initio’. The note seeks to amend Section 3 of PCMA, under which currently child marriage is only voidable at the option of contracting parties,”.

Current Law

Currently, the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA), 2006, is in force to prevent child marriages. However, the law is full of loopholes, making it ineffective in countering the menace

  • The Act does not invalidate child marriage itself. It only gives the child bride and the groom the option of annulling it if a case is filed in a district court by either of the two contracting parties within two years of becoming adult, or through a guardian in case they are still minors.
  • Thus, child marriages in India — between a man under 21 years and a woman under 18 —are merely voidable at the choice of the contracting parties. Consequently, in most cases, the child bride lacks the agency of taking the decision for herself.

The proposed amendments in PMCA will go a long way in countering the issue of child marriages in India. Additionally, issues of sexual autonomy, early pregnancies, sexual violence, and denial of the right to education will also be addressed.

The Supreme Court judgment of October 2017 ruled that sex with a minor wife amounts to rape, as “under no circumstance can a child below 18 years give consent, express or implied, for sexual intercourse”. Thus, necessary amendments in the PCMA to end child marriages will ensure the validity of the SC judgement as well.

Read: Child Marriages See a Sharp Decline in India; UNICEF Reports

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