'Dump customs that curb children's rights'

Education is key to eliminate child marriages, says NCPCR

Dump religion and culture that curb children’s rights, said Shanta Sinha, chairperson of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights at a discussion on Prohibition of Child Marriage Act here on Tuesday.

She said education is the key to ensure elimination of child marriages and new traditions should be encouraged.

“Child marriage is a stubborn issue. There cannot be grey areas in laws meant for children like the Child Labour Act and Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006,” said Sinha.

“Since the state government and society are not able to act on the issue, we have got used to accepting the failure of the act.”

She called for radical laws which lay emphasis on safe spaces and provide rehabilitation to girls.

“Compulsory education till 18 years of age should be made mandatory. It becomes easier for a girl to exercise her right by saying no to the marriage if she is in a school,” said Sinha.

The consultation on the implication of Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 was jointly organised by the Ford Foundation and Women Power Connect (WPC).

Dr Tahir Mahmood, former member of law commission of India, said religion is the biggest hurdle in the way of eliminating child marriages. “No law in India declares child marriage void or illegal. Social realities and customs prevent us from nullifying marriages,” he said.

He added that the implementation of the Child Marriages Act has taken place only on papers as between 1929 and 2007 a minimum of 30 cases were registered under the act. “The answer to eliminating child marriages is education and not just law. We need to get rid of religious misbeliefs,” said Mahmood.

Nirmala Prabhavalkar, member of National Commission for Women highlighted that socio-economic situations prevent offenders from getting caught.

“According to our society a woman exists only if she is married. We need to change this mindset,” she said. “The implementing bodies need to be more aggressive.

Police officers, district collectors and other stakeholders need to be sensitised.”
Activists highlighted that lack of alternatives for young girls are preventing them from rejecting early marriages.

“Our law needs to tackle social customs. We have the highest number of girl children married before they turn 18, rather it is 15 years among 10 countries of Asia,” said Ranjana Kumari, president of WPC.

“The loopholes in the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act and the absence of rules framed by the majority of states in the country reflects the lack of political will to implement the law.” said Ranjana Kumari, president of WPC.

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