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In U-Turn, Rajasthan Recalls Law Amid Concern Over Child Marriages

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said the government is working to eradicate child marriages. (File)

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Highlights

  • In case of minors, their parents or guardians must register marriages
  • Bill makes it mandatory to register all marriages
  • Bill led to huge uproar as many said it will encourage child marriages

Jaipur:

The Rajasthan government has decided to recall the state’s Marriages Amendment Bill 2021 that says that all marriages including those of minors must be registered. In the case of minors, the bill says, their parents or guardians must register the marriages.

Passed last month in the Rajasthan assembly, the bill led to a huge uproar in the state as many said that it will encourage child marriages. A non-government organisation had also challenged the amendment to the bill in the Rajasthan high court.

The Rajasthan Compulsory Registrations of Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2021 makes it mandatory to register all marriages even if a girl is under 18 and a boy is under 21 by the guardians.

After several objections were 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.

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.”

Mr Gehlot said that the state government will urge the governor to return the bill for legal consultations.

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

The bill was passed in the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly on September 17 amid objections from opposition BJP MLAs who walked out of the assembly. The Opposition has raised tough questions for the Congress government, saying that they are “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, Rajasthan has reported several such cases over the years. Official data from 2015-2016 highlights that 35 per cent of the marriages in the state were child marriages.



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