A Bill seeking to make a child marriage null and void was on Tuesday passed by the Parliament with Lok Sabha affixing its stamp on the legislation. Rajya Sabha had passed the Bill on December 14.
Replying to the debate on the Prevention of Child Marriages (Amendment) Bill, 2006, Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chaudhary said that the new law would prove affective only if the MP's took a lead in its implementation. She dwelt at length on the deplorable condition of women in the country who were being discriminated right from being killed in the womb to other stages of life.
Chaudhary described as a "national shame" that over one crore girls (children) were killed during the last 20 years. She felt MPs have an important role to play in the government's fight against such social evils. Referring to the increasing number of dowry deaths, she said growing materialism has further added to the plight of the girls.
The Bill seeks to establish a framework to restrain solemnisation of child marriages. In the event of such a marriage being declared null and void, the husband or if he is a minor at the time of child marriage, his guardian, would have to pay maintenance to the minor girl till her remarriage, the legislation provides.
The minister clarified that every child marriage, solemnised before or after the commencement of this Act, could be declared void if the contracting party desired so. The government would soon introduce the Integrated Child Protection Scheme and Kishori Shakti Yojana to protect the girl child, she added.
Sumitra Mahajan (BJP) said it was high time the child marriage were checked while Krishna Tirath (Cong) said women found forcing such marriage should also be prosecuted. CS Sujatha (CPI-M) said efforts should be made to ensure strict enforcement of the new law. Shailendra Kumar (SP) said priests solemnising child marriages should also be booked.
Observing that laws seldom got implemented, Ranjita Ranjan (RJD) said the government should take a serious note of the prevalence of child prostitution in parts of northern Bihar and UP.