New Rajasthan legislation triggers political storm, activists blame govt for bowing to caste teams

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A invoice amending the Marriage Act, 2009, handed just lately by the Rajasthan meeting mandating furnishing of knowledge on baby marriages inside 30 days of the marriage, has led to a stormy debate between the BJP and the ruling Congress, with the BJP accusing the Ashok Gehlot authorities of “validating the social evil of child marriages.” Meanwhile, baby rights activists mentioned the federal government’s transfer was akin to bowing to jati panches — conventional caste teams just like khap panchayats which are usually seen because the spine of kid marriages and different regressive customs.

The Gehlot authorities has put ahead a four-page clarification saying the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages (Amendment) Bill was making solely a “technical change” to the prevailing Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act, and was geared toward reaching out to extra victims of kid marriages. It doesn’t make baby marriage authorized as “district collectors can take action against the offenders”, and can also be consistent with a Supreme Court ruling that has made registering marriage obligatory, it mentioned.

The BJP has accused the Congress of undermining the central legislation that prohibits baby marriages, however the state authorities mentioned registration of kid marriages would assist in their sooner annulment and assist the federal government attain out to extra victims, significantly widows. The authorities’s justification is that within the absence of a wedding certificates, a widow is usually disadvantaged of entry to authorities schemes.

The authorities has additionally mentioned registration would assist it handle the issue of kid marriages and its impression on maternal and baby well being extra successfully by dividing the state into totally different zones, relying on the variety of registrations, and channel motion accordingly.

Activists, nevertheless, mentioned it will make it simpler for individuals to conduct baby marriages, and make it much more tough for ladies to return ahead to hunt annulment as that would want a certificates of registration now.

According to the brand new legislation, the wedding registration officer will do the registration of kid marriages on the block degree, with a provision that if the lady’s age on the time of marriage was lower than 18 years and the boy’s age was lower than 21, her mother and father must inform the registration officer inside 30 days by giving a memorandum within the prescribed format. Based on this, the registration officer would register it as baby marriage. The Bill additionally provides a provision enabling a widow or a widower or their kin to register their marriage inside 30 days of the loss of life of the partner or relative.

The BJP has reacted very sharply to the event, calling it regressive. Rajendra Rathore, deputy chief of the opposition within the Rajasthan meeting, mentioned in 1927, the Sharda Act (Child Marriage Restraint Act) got here into existence in Rajasthan, which was changed by the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. “But it looks like Rajasthan is still in the hold of this regressive custom,” he mentioned. The Bill was opposed not solely by BJP MLAs but in addition by pro-Congress impartial MLA Sanyam Lodha. It was handed by a voice vote.

Child rights activists who’ve spent years attempting to rid the state of kid marriages are probably the most upset. “This is undoing all years of hard work as it will only give rise to child marriages and related issues of sexual violence and teenage pregnancy. The only reason I see for the government to take a step like this is because they want to keep the jati panches happy. These groups are the backbone of child marriages who often punish families with a social boycott, and even monetarily, for not following the norm. They consider themselves courts in themselves, hold complete sway over villages and are useful to political parties during elections,” Kriti Bharti, managing director of the Saarthi Trust instructed ET.

Accusing the federal government of bringing in a “Taliban-like” legislation, Bharti, who has usually labored in opposition to threats to rescue victims of kid marriages, mentioned the federal government ought to have taken recommendation from baby rights activists and even informers of kid marriages. “This is totally in opposition to girls and ignores sensible realities. They are saying it will make annulment of marriages simpler however that is not true. Forty-three of the 45 baby marriages annulled within the nation are from Rajasthan as a result of we had been at it for years,” Bharti mentioned.

Bharti mentioned traditions adopted by a number of desert communities — resembling a broadly prevalent one the place kids from each paternal and maternal facet are married off inside 13 days of a loss of life within the household — should be understood whereas framing insurance policies on baby marriages. “Often such marriages take place where the relative has passed away, not in the girl or boy’s own village. The girl is often even younger than 5-8 years, and the gauna (going off to in-laws) happens after she hits puberty, which could be years later … Expecting her to track down her certificate years after the event, in a faraway place is unrealistic, and so is the expectation that she will have her certificate with her. The registration certificate is bound to be with parents who will do everything possible to not let the annulment happen. A girl can file for an annulment till she is 20 and she might end up crossing that in all this.”

She added that to cease baby marriages, activists would usually inform younger girls to strategy any official within the authorities. “But now, instead of all government departments focussing only on stalling child marriages, one will be registering them, giving them a legitimacy that is shameful. This will also lead to more cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act as people might use registration as a cover to get girls in the family married to sexual offenders or rapists, particularly in cases of child abuse,” she mentioned.

Sunita Devi Singh, a Rajasthan-based activist, mentioned the 2009 legislation additionally had comparable provisions, with a distinction that oldsters had the duty to register the marriages. She defined that the unique provision required obligatory registration of marriage inside 30 days if the bride and bridegroom had been beneath 21 years of age – the age criterion for each women and men being the identical, however the amended model says the mother and father should register the wedding inside 30 days of the marriage “if the bride is under 18 and the bridegroom is under 21”.

“There is no clear mechanism in the amendment suggesting the prosecution of illegal child marriages as the focus seems to be on registration alone, which is the problem,” she mentioned, including, National Crime Records Bureau knowledge confirmed an increase of about 50% in circumstances of kid marriage in India in 2020 in contrast with 2019. “This is why governments have to be careful while fiddling with laws,” she mentioned.

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