Rajasthan rolls back proposed Law, child marriages concern

Jaipur: After a huge back lash from the people Rajashthan Goverment has rolled back a controversial law seen to validate/legitimise child marriages by asking parents to register them.

The Rajasthan Compulsory Registrations of Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2021, passed last month in the Rajasthan assembly but yet to be enacted, said all marriages including those of minors must be registered. In the case of minors, their parents or guardians must register the marriages, it said.

The law triggered outrage, with many saying it would encourage child marriages. A non-government organisation also challenged the amendment to the bill in the Rajasthan high court.

After protests raised by activists and the opposition, the state, on the day of the International Girl Child on Monday, said that it will ask the governor to return the bill.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said the government is working with a “strong will” for the complete eradication of child marriage in the state. “We have a strong resolve that child marriage should not take place in the state and the government will not make any compromise in this regard,” he tweeted in Hindi.

He said the bill was brought after a Supreme Court directive which says all marriages should be registered. “However, we request the governor to return the bill due to the incorrect notion over child marriages,” he said.

“After legal consultation from lawyers, it will be considered whether to take the bill forward or not,” added the Chief Minister, while addressing a programme on International Girl Child Day.

The bill was passed in the Rajasthan assembly on September 17 amid objections from opposition BJP MLAs who staged a walkout. The Opposition raised tough questions for the Congress government, accusing it of “giving a back-door entry to child marriage.”

A clause in the bill states that “if the bride is under 18 and the bridegroom is under 21”, their parents must register the marriage within 30 days of the event. In the 2009 version, the age criterion was 21 years for both.

However, the government had defended its decision saying that the Opposition was completely misinterpreting the amendment. The state had said that district collectors have powers to act against the social evil and the latest amendment safeguards the minors’ interests, especially in cases where the girl is widowed.

Despite a ban on child marriages, the practice continues in large parts of Rajasthan. Several cases have been reported over the years. Official data from 2015-2016 highlights that 35 per cent of the marriages in the state involved minors.

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