New Delhi: Child marriage is a “menace” that does not give children a choice and the laws prohibiting this social ill have failed due to their non-acceptance by the society, Supreme Court judge A K Sikri said Thursday.
He termed child marriage as a “violation of human rights” of children and said there was a need to ensure proper implementation of legislations to curb such “socio-legal issues”, which also include dowry.
He further dealt with similar issues like right to go for sex change and said, “If a particular person wants to change sex, it is his choice. It must not be denied. Otherwise it curtails his development.
“It equally applies here (child marriage). It’s the same in child marriage. We can’t curtail one’s right to live by marrying off her at an early age.”
“If a girl child is not given a choice of what she wants to be in her life, it is attacking her dignity. It is violating her human rights,” Justice Sikri said after releasing a report on Statistical Analysis of Child Marriage in India compiled by Young Lives, an NGO in collaboration with National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).
“Child marriage is a menace. There are so many ill effects of this marriage. Apart from the sociological, economic, gender and other issues, it is the violation of human rights of these children who are made to marry. They too have dreams to achieve heights in their lives. Can we kill that,” he asked.
The report lists Rajasthan, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Meghalaya among the top 10 states with the highest percentage of child marriage cases among both boys and girls.
“Laws are in place to prohibit dowry. It is an offence. Giving and receiving dowry is prohibited. Demanding dowry is prohibited. But still when we go and attend marriages and see all these things happen before us, we accept it.
“Failure of laws are because of their non acceptance of the society. Child marriage also comes under this,” he said adding that child marriage curtails his/her right to live,” he said.
Ministry of Women and Child Development Secretary Rakesh Srivastava who addressed the gathering said that Girls continue to be viewed as ‘Paraya Dhan’.
“Girls continue to be viewed as Paraya Dhan and parents often marry their daughter young, for economic and social reasons. However, the short term economic reasons that influence parental choice may not serve the long term interest of children,” he said.
NCPCR Chairperson Stuti Kacker said that the report is based on Census 2011 data and shows that both boys and girls are still getting married in large numbers with a total of 12 million child marriages below the legal age.
Rajasthan showed the highest percentage in child marriages among girls (2.5 per cent), followed by 15 states, namely Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Sikkim, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Nagaland, Assam, Maharashtra, Tripura, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Karnataka where the percentage of girls marrying below the legal age were higher than the national average of 1.32 per cent.
Rajasthan also topped in the percentage (4.69 per cent) of boys marrying below the legal age of 21 years.
Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Jharkhand, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Sikkim have percentages ranging between 4.60 per cent to 1.98 per cent.