The Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021
Bill seeks to increase the legal age for marriage for women from 18 to 21
years. It aims to amend the Prohibition
of Child Marriage Act, 2006, which it refers to as the ‘principal Act’.
Smriti Irani, the minister of Women and Child Development, government of India, introduced the Bill in the Lok Sabha on December 21, 2020. Its stated objective – as mentioned in a preface to the Bill, signed by the minister – is to “adequately secure the Constitutional mandate of gender equality in marriageable age among men and women.” It has been referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee led by Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, a member of the Rajya Sabha from the state of Maharashtra.
How does the Bill redefine ‘child marriage’?
The 2006 Act defines a ‘child’ as a female below 18 years or a male below 21 years. This Bill alters the definition of a child – male or female – as any person below 21 years. It specifies that a marriage in which either of the parties could be deemed a ‘child’ shall be considered a ‘child marriage.’
How does the Bill relate to personal laws?
Section 1(2) of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, states that the law extends across India and to all citizens. The 2021 Bill inserts a proviso here, stating that certain personal laws and “any other custom or usage or practice in relation to marriage” shall fall beyond the Act’s purview. The personal laws listed are the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872; the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936; the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937; the Special Marriage Act, 1954; the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; and the Foreign Marriage Act, 1969.
At the same time, Section 6 of the Bill introduces changes in some of these Acts to deem the legal age for marriage for men and women to be 21 years. The laws listed here are the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872; the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936; the Special Marriage Act, 1954; the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956; the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956; and the Foreign Marriage Act, 1969.
What does the Bill say about the annulment of child marriages?
The 2006 Act – in Section 3 – contains provisions for the annulment of child marriages. It states that a ‘contracting party’ of the marriage, who was a child at the time of solemnisation, may file a petition for annulment in a district court. They may file the petition up to two years after the child attains majority. The 2021 Bill substitutes “two” with “five” here – in Section 3(3) of the principal Act.
Facts and Factoids by Shafia Shaan.
Ministry of Women and Child Development
Government of India, New Delhi
21 Dec, 2021