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Amid Strong Opposition, Rajasthan Passes Bill to Register Child Marriages

·4 min read

The Rajasthan Assembly on Friday passed a Bill to amend a 2009 Act on mandatory registration of marriages, including child marriages.

The Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages (Amendment) Bill, 2021 amended the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act, 2009.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislators walked out of the House in protest and questioned the need for the registration of child marriages and demanded the withdrawal of the bill.

The Congress government in the state argued that the Bill was in tandem with the 2006 Supreme Court ruling that stated all marriages have to registered, whether one is minor or not.

“It will be a black day for the assembly if this bill is passed. Does the assembly permit us to unanimously allow child marriages? By a show of hands, we will be permitting child marriages. The bill will write a black chapter in the history of the assembly,” BJP MLA Ashok Lahoti said, according to news agency ANI.

Also Read: Panchayat Poll Debacle Signals Another Round of Turf War in Rajasthan Congress

'The Bill Affects the Progressive Image of Rajasthan'

As per the new amendment, the parents or guardians of the bridegroom who is under 21 years of age, and a bride who is under 18 years old, “shall be responsible to submit the memorandum, in such manner, as may be prescribed, within a period of thirty days from the date of solemnisation of the marriage to the Registrar.”

BJP strongly objected to this as many believed this would justify child marriage.

"It is wrong, against the people. There is now an abundance of people who educate their children and don’t like child marriages. But if you justify child marriages, this will send a wrong message before the nation. The Rajasthan Assembly will be humiliated before the entire nation,” said Independent MLA Sanyam Lodha, reported The Indian Express.

The Opposition alleged that the Bill should not be passed as it affects the “progressive” image of the state.

Also Read: Telangana: 14-Year-Old Alerts Officials to Stop Her Child Marriage

Bill against the Child Marriage Act : Opposition

The Leader of Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria said the new amendment was against the Child Marriage Act and "mistakes shouldn't be repeated".

He condemned the Act saying this authorises minor kids to get married and the only roadblock is that the family needs to inform the authorities within 30 days. He said this could lead to a rise in such offences against children.

Kataria apologised for the 2009 Act saying that he was a member of the Assembly back then too. “If minor kids get married and the state gives them a certificate as per law then how is this correct?” he asked.

Also Read: 46 Mn Girls Missing In India; Child Marriage to Spike: UN Report

Congress Argues Bill Doesn't Legalise Child Marriages

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shanti Dhariwal argued that registration of child marriages does not imply that they will be considered valid.

“Even if a marriage among underage children is held, its registration is mandatory. However, the Bill doesn’t make the marriage legal and the District Collector can take action against them,” Dhariwal said.

Also Read: #GoodNews: Girl Who Escaped Child Marriage Scores 90% in Boards

Provisions of the Amendment

As per the earlier Act, only the District Marriage Registration Officer (DMRO) was authorised to register the marriages. Now, the government has been directed to appoint an Additional DMRO and Block MRO to register marriages. As in, earlier there were marriage registration officers at the district level but now provision has been made in the Bill up to the block level.

This provision has been made in Section 8 of the Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act.

The Bill also adds a provision enabling a widow or a widower, or their children, parents or kin in case both have died, to register their marriage within thirty days of the death. This they believe will ensure a widow has access to various schemes in the absence of a marriage certificate.

Also Read: What a woman! She battled personal odds to become crusader against child marriages

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