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The IUP Journal of Law Review :
Child Marriage in India: A Critical Appraisal
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The pernicious practice of child marriage is predominantly pervasive in India, despite valiant efforts by stakeholders of the criminal justice system to intercept it. Though India has ratified extensive international legislation and enacted its own to curtail this practice, the country’s pluralist nature is a barrier to the enforcement of such legislation. In India, social and cultural values hold their own in the community as against state-enacted laws, resulting in weak enforcement of legislation banning child marriage. The ground reality is that the official statistics at hand on child marriage reveal only the tip of the iceberg, primarily because a significant number of child marriage cases go unreported. In line with this, the present paper provides an overview of the problem of child marriage with inferences drawn from the statistics presented, and suggests measures to impede the practice of child marriage.

 
 
 

Child marriage or early marriage refers to a marriage to which either of the contracting parties is a child. Whereas the minimum age of marriage for girls is 18 years of age, in the case of boys it is 21 (The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006). It is not necessary that both groom and bride be children: if one is, such a contract will be considered a child marriage. The problem of child marriage is widely prevalent in India, being especially practiced mostly in India’s northern and central states including Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Haryana—as well as in southern states such as Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh. This deplorable practice is collusive in nature, with several suburban, rural, and backward communities treating it as the norm, not a grave aberration (Ghosh, 2011). India’s pluralistic society along with its diverse culture and history lend itself to child marriage. Plurality, defined as a group of people of various social classes, religions or races who coexist in a society, but maintain different sets of rules and traditions, is evident by the distinctive cultures of Hindu, Islamic, Buddhist and tribal laws (Burris, 2014). Many of these cultures celebrate child marriage and so carry greater weight among citizens than state-enacted law. Marriage is viewed as a family rather than civil matter, governed by religion and culture (Raj et al., 2014).

 
 
 

Law Review Journal, Child Marriage in India, A Critical Appraisal