Early marriage takes away self-esteem of a girl child, says SC
Married woman or a married girl child cannot be treated as subordinate to her husband or be at his beck and call or his property, the court said.india Updated: Oct 11, 2017 23:10 IST
The ill-effects of early marriage on a girl child weighed heavily in the minds of the two judges who delivered on Wednesday the landmark verdict criminalising sexual intercourse between a man and a minor wife.
“The material placed before us clearly suggests that an early marriage takes away the self-esteem and confidence of a girl child and subjects her, in a sense, to sexual abuse. Under no circumstances can it be said that such a girl child lives a life of dignity,” held the bench of justices MB Lokur and Deepak Gupta, who said courts will take cognisance of the alleged offence if a complaint is filed within a year.
“The documentary material shown to us indicates that there are greater chances of a girl child dying during childbirth and there are greater chances of neonatal deaths. The results adverted to in the material also suggest that children born out of early marriages are more likely to be malnourished. In the face of this material, would it be wise to continue with a practice, traditional though it might be, that puts the life of a girl child in danger and also puts the life of the baby born from an early marriage at stake?” the judges said, debunking the government stand taken in defence of the section. Various international and government reports that talk of minor girls lacking in maturity or ability to control their sexuality have been quoted in the verdict.
“When they marry and have children, their health can be adversely affected, their education impeded and economic autonomy restricted. Early marriage also increases the risk of HIV infection.”
Married woman or a married girl child cannot be treated as subordinate to her husband or be at his beck and call or his property, the court said, invoking the Constitution that provides equal rights to women. Therefore, no statute should be interpreted or understood to derogate from this position.
“If there is some theory that propounds such an unconstitutional myth, then that theory deserves to be completely demolished,” said the judges.