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Rajasthan Govt. passes bill which includes, 'Registration of Child Marriage.'

Going back in time?

The Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages (Amendment) Bill, 2021, was passed in the state assembly on 17th September. The bill amends mandatory registration of marriages, including child marriages. According to the bill, a provision requires marriages to be registered within 30 days by any parent or guardian. It also amends mandatory registration even for a bridegroom yet to be 21 or/and the bride who hasn't met 18. In addition, section 8 of this bill provides that if the respective parties to the affiliation have not completed the legal age of marriage, their parents or guardians can register the pair; this is clearly registering and validating the cognizable act of child marriages.

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However, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislators opposed the bill and walked out of the assembly in protest. They demanded the withdrawal of the measure and called it a direct violation of rights. One of the opposing ministers called it "Black day for assembly." "Passing this amendment will lead the masses to think it's okay to marry off a girl below 18. Not only is this a political issue, but it's also a social one. We will do whatever we can to oppose this bill socially and politically," a BJP minister said. In TAF's opinion, questioning the need for the registration of child marriages is necessary.

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On the contrary, the defending party's leader Shanti Kumar Dhariwal said, "The bill does not say that child marriage is valid. The bill states that after marriage, only registration is necessary. It does not imply that child marriage is valid. If the District Collector wants, they can still take action against the child marriages".

According to Mr. Dhariwal, this bill will bring transparency and simplicity for the registration officer and the public. His party members also said this bill would safeguard the rights of minors getting married, which is merely contradicting the statement itself.

Recent statistics attest that the rate of child marriages went down from 47% in 2005-2006 to 27% in 2015-2016 due to The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. PCMA also led to a dip in Rajasthan's cases of child marriages in recent years. Rajasthan being infamous for this social evil still has a prevalence of 16.2% in instances of child marriages which is high compared to the national average index. The new bill certainly contradicts PCMA. During these years, fearing PCMA, some parents married off their children as soon as they turned the legal age, probably waiting for them to turn 18 and 21, for the bride and groom, respectively. Now, as this bill amends, they won't even stay for that long!

Image credit: IBTimes UK

Child Marriage undermines fundamental human rights and destroys the development and well-being of children. It is essential to understand this stigma and how it affects the trapped children in it. Minor brides are affected and derailed more. They are usually married off without their consent, leading to several problems such as lack of education, being more vulnerable to domestic violence and marital rape, the transmission of STIs, and unplanned teenage pregnancies, mental illness, and many more complications. Imagine one of the most important decisions of one's life; when and whom to marry is made by the parents or guardians without their consent, when they are mentally and physically immature. And yes, that's precisely how more than a million children feel and get affected in India due to child marriage every year.

Rajasthan government should ensure that laws like PCMA exist and solely focuses on the prevention of child marriages. The new bill that aims to legitimize child marriages won't help to prevent child marriages. It is acting indeed against the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA). The government should pay more attention to its prevention and taking action against violators. This bill will do nothing but undo the years of work against the whole system of child marriage. It will immensely increase child marriage cases. Rajasthan amending this bill also raises the possibility of other states doing the same. It's regressive to see child marriages getting registered while LGBTQIA marriages cannot. The bill requires clarity and certain withdrawals in its rules.

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