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Child marriage worse than rape, says Delhi court

New Delhi, Sep 7, 2014, PTI: 13:50 IST
Child marriage 'is an evil worse than rape' and should be completely eradicated from society, said a Delhi court while ordering registration of a case against a girl's parents for getting her married at a tender age. A child marriage in progress at Rajgarh, about 155 kilometers from Bhopal. AP file photo
Child marriage "is an evil worse than rape" and should be completely eradicated from society, said a Delhi court while ordering registration of a case against a girl's parents for getting her married at a tender age.

Metropolitan magistrate Shivani Chauhan issued the direction while hearing a case of dowry harassment filed by the girl's parents against her husband and in-laws.

While ordering lodging of case, the court held that "giving and taking dowry is punishable under the law".

The court directed the police to register a case under the appropriate provisions of the "Prohibition of Child Marriage Act" and under the Dowry Prohibition Act against the parents of the 14-year-old girl as well as her in-laws, against whom a domestic violence case was already registered.

"Child marriage is an evil worst than rape and should be completely eradicated from the society. This would not be possible if the stakeholders like State fail to take appropriate action against the offenders.

"The court is not expected to sit as a mute spectator and let the evil perpetrate," the magistrate said while directing the DCP, South, to file status report by October 19.

The court pulled up the girl's parents, saying that they too had committed a "serious offence".

"There are serious outcomes of child marriage. It is the worst form of domestic violence against the child, not only by the respondents (husband and his family)but also by her own parents.

"Child brides have a diminished chance of completing their education and are at a higher risk of being physically abused, contracting HIV and other diseases, and dying while pregnant or giving birth," the magistrate observed, adding that luckily this girl was "healthy".

"... But this does not in any way diminish the seriousness of the offence which her own parents, relatives and the husband are alleged to have committed upon her person," the court added.

According to the complaint filed by parents of the girl, she was married in 2011 and was then a minor.

The husband and his family members, however, contended that her parents had shown the girl to be a major at the time of the wedding.

The court while relying on her school leaving certificate, turned down the husband's contention and held that the girl was a minor when she was married.

"There is a school leaving certificate of the child on record and it shows that her date of birth is August 30,1997 ... the victim was around 14-15 years of age at the time of her marriage with respondent 1(husband)," it said.

Besides registration of an FIR, the court also directed the husband to pay Rs 4,000 as monthly interim maintenance to his estranged wife.

The court, in the meantime, allowed both the parties to settle the matter amicably as they expressed their desire to bury the hatchet.

"At this stage, both the parties (girl's parents and in-laws, including husband) jointly pray that there is a possibility of amicable settlement of the case between them and that the matter may be sent to mediation cell.

"In the interest of the child, and with a view of providing proper maintenance to the child without the rigmarole of the trial, the matter is referred to mediation centre."

According to the domestic violence complaint filed by the parents, their minor daughter was married on May 5, 2011 and an amount of Rs 3.5 lakh was given to her in-laws at the time of the wedding.

They had alleged that the respondents (husband and his family members) had demanded a car and Rs 50,000 in cash and beat her for her inability to meet the demand.

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