Elopements most prosecuted under child marriage law: study

Source: The Hindu

What is the News?

Partners for Law in Development (PLD), a Delhi-based legal resource group has released a study titled “Child Marriage Prosecutions in India”.

About Child Marriage Prosecutions in India study:
  1. The study analysed 83 cases of child marriage prosecutions over a period of 10 years between 2008 and 2017 across the country.
  2. These cases include cases filed under the Prohibition of Child Marriages Act, 2006 as well as cases initiated under other laws in relation to child marriage such as the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), 2012 and the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Key Findings of the Study:

Legal Prosecution of child marriages:
  1. Legal prosecution of child marriages was twice as much against elopement or self-arranged marriages by girls with such cases accounting for 65% ( 54 out of a total 83 cases) of the total cases studied. 
  2. Only 30% of the cases were those of arranged child marriages and a mere 5% were forced child marriages (such as those that involved kidnapping, enticement or forcible marriage by parents).
Initiation of Legal Proceedings:
  1. In 67% of the cases, it was primarily the parents of girls who approached the legal system with a complaint against child marriage.
  2. Only 7% of the cases were initiated by a child marriage prohibition officer — the State functionary designated for implementing the law. 
  3. Girls accessed the law on their own was the least, with only 3.5% of the cases filed to seek the nullification of their arranged marriage or to initiate criminal legal action against their parents for arranging an underage marriage.

Punishment for Elopement vs Forced and arranged child marriages:

  1. The punishment for elopement versus forced and arranged child marriages are hugely disproportionate. 
  2. Elopement could invite punishment of 10 years to life imprisonment if convicted for rape under the IPC or jail of 20 years to a maximum punishment of death under the POCSO Act.
  3. On the other hand, forced marriages under the prohibition of the Child Marriage Act(PCMA) come with no minimum sentence and a maximum sentence of imprisonment for two years and/or a fine. 
  4. The study terms this as “weaponization of the law to settle family dishonour”.
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