September 23, 2021
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📰 FEATURE STORY
The Rajasthan Compulsory Registration Of Marriages (Amendment) Bill, 2021
The legal age of marriage in India is 18 years for women and 21 years for men. Anyone who gets married before that age are part of a ‘child marriage’. As we know, child marriage is illegal in our country. Several governments at the Centre and state have tried to tackle this problem. But unfortunately, child marriage continues to exist till date.
Treading in this quest to prohibit child marriage, the Rajasthan government recently passed a bill to amend the marriage registration law. The new law calls for mandatory registration of child marriages. However, this provision has received severe backlash from the opposition parties and activists.
If we look at history, we can see how child marriage was banned way back in 1929. Following this, a lot of efforts were done to put an end to child marriage. The legal age for marriage was increased and child marriage prohibition acts were introduced. But official reports have recently shown a worrying trend. The National Crime Records Bureau data of 2020 reveals that child marriages have increased by nearly 50% in India. In simple numbers, over 785 cases of minor marriages were registered as per law.
The only logical way to deal with this situation is to come up with unique solutions. This is what the Rajasthan government has attempted to do. The state has a unique past in the child marriage scenario. In 2006, Rajasthan banned child marriage by passing the Child Marriage Prohibition Act. Numbers tell us that this law has been helpful in bringing down the child marriage cases. However, when we compare the data to the national average (11.9%), Rajasthan (16.2%) continues to have a high prevalence of child marriage.
So when the government was pondering over what the next step should be, they took up a marriage registration law passed in 2009 and amended it. The original provision stated that marriages should be registered by the parents within 30 days, if the bride and groom were below 21 years of age. The amended version now mentions that the parents should register the marriage within 30 days, if the bride is below 18 years of age and the groom is below 21 years of age.
This recent amendment, however, has garnered several criticisms. Right from the Opposition parties, child rights activists and citizens to pro-Congress leaders, many people stand against this new law. A BJP leader went to the extent of calling the passing of the amendment a black day for the state.
The Bill is problematic
The most important concern with the bill is that it might legitimise child marriages. Think of it this way – if the government asks parents to register the marriages of their minor children, it is almost as if the government is validating child marriages. So this bill would easily give out the wrong message to people and make Rajasthan a regressive state.
As it is, Rajasthan has a very high rate of child marriages. Young girls around the age of 14 are married off. It is because of a lack of awareness. If a legal marriage certificate is handed out, it encourages parents to marry their minor children under the belief that the marriage is legally approved. So intentionally or otherwise, the law ends up authorising and encouraging child marriages.
There’s also concern brewing from child rights organizations. They are worried that this law would lead to a rise in child marriages. If this were to happen, the physical, psychological, social and educational development of minors would be seriously affected. Additionally, there might be an increase in cases of sexual violence and teenage pregnancy in the state.
The marriage certificate problem does not end there. Activists claim that this law would make marriage registration easier and annulment difficult. If the marriage certificate is handed out to married couples, the married girl would have to submit this document to annul her wedding. But here’s the trick. The marriage will be registered by the parents, so it is more likely that they possess the certificate, and would not submit the same during annulment. This amendment does not take into consideration such practical hassles. Moreover, by not specifically mentioning that the law is against child marriages, the validity of the social evil is left hanging in the air.
The Bill is much needed
The state government stands firm that this amendment will be very beneficial. They say that it was passed to safeguard the interests of minors. Only if child marriages are registered, will there be a record of those who got their minor children married. It will help track the defaulters and the District Collector can then take necessary action against them. So, the law will help curb the increasing child marriage rates.
Registering child marriages will bring in more transparency to the government data. So far, Rajasthan has not paid much attention to the unregistered child marriages. But once the marriages are registered, they will automatically come under the purview of the government. However, mere registration does not mean child marriages are valid or legal. It is being legally recorded so that the government can find ways to tackle the record issues.
One important case in point is that in 2016, the Supreme Court ruled that all marriages, including child marriage, should be registered. The court reasoned that public record of child marriages would make it easier to handle the situation legally. But this order has not been implemented fully. Hence, we can say that the Rajasthan government is only following the footsteps of the apex court.
Having said that, the government assures that this amendment does not validate child marriage. In contrast, it will protect children from early marriages. Moreover, the marriage certificate holds a lot of importance. Without this legal document, widows will not be able to receive any government benefits. Thus, there is a need to register all marriages, whether it is of a minor or not.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
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For the Left:
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🏴 STATE OF THE STATES
Cupid Panchayat (Kerala) – A Panchayat takes it upon itself to help its people. Similarly, when a local body found that there is a gradual increase in the number of single youths, it decided to step in and help them find life partners. It has opened a ‘marriage diary’ for the same. There are already several matrimonial services, what’s new in this, you ask? They are providing this service free of cost. So far, 700 registrations have been received in just three days. The process will soon shift to digital mode and the Panchayat will coordinate with other local bodies across the state to find suitable matches. All that we feel like saying is ‘what an idea Sir Ji!’
Busting Myths (Assam) – There are several myths surrounding animals’ body parts and skin being medically or scientifically useful. The horns of rhinoceroses are also alleged to have medical properties. To bust this myth, the Assam government has decided to burn nearly 2500 rhino horns. 94 horns are preserved as heritage pieces for academic purposes and 50 are preserved for court cases. Other rhino horns, elephant tusks and body parts of several other wild animals are presently stored in the government treasuries across the state and will be destroyed under the Wildlife (Protection) Act. We hope that such huge steps of the government will bust misconceptions and create awareness among people.
Water Aid (Himachal Pradesh) – Providing water supply for its people is a state’s largest responsibility. Himachal Pradesh has taken a huge step towards it. It planned a project that aims to provide 24*7 pressure water supply and improve sewerage services across the state. The financial bid for the project was ₹1,825 crores. Of this, the World Bank has finally approved to provide ₹1,168 crore aid. The remaining ₹657 crores will be borne by the state government. With the finances all set, we can now look forward to 24*7 water supply and effective sewerage services in the coming years.
Animal Count (West Bengal) – The tiger census is done regularly to check if there is an increase in the number of big cats. As the name suggests, it was earlier focused only on tigers. Now, West Bengal is all set to count the herbivores. Since the coexistence of herbivores and tigers is important for the natural ecosystem, the authorities think it is imperative to count them. Depending on the region, antelopes, deer, elephants, gaurs and rhinoceroses will be counted. So how will the counting take place? Camera tapping technique and other statistical models will be used. The 2019-2020 census showed the figures as 95 tigers at Sunderbans. The Forest Department is hoping to see a rise in numbers in the census that will take place in December and January. Here’s to hoping that the numbers increase this time.
Food Safety (Gujarat) – Food safety is very important. To analyse and reveal the standards of food safety in every state, the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) releases the Food Safety Index. The recent index was released on Tuesday. Based on this, Gujarat has scored 72% and is leading as the best performing state among major states in the country. Gujarat is followed by Kerala and Tamil Nadu. FYI, Gujarat was adjudged as the best state in the 2019-20 ranking as well. Few parameters gauged include food sampling, compliance, infrastructure, license and registration. Gujarat has led the country in all of these parameters of food safety. Well, it definitely calls for a celebration.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
₹575 crores – Godrej Properties’ single day sales achievement. It launched the second phase of its project, Godrej Woods, in Noida and managed to sell 340 homes worth ₹575 crores on the first day itself. It is a unique forest-themed phase and this one-day sale has taken the total sales to approximately ₹1140 crores.