Days after a BJP candidate in Rajasthan was reported to have promised that she will not let police intervention in child marriage cases if she is voted in, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) on Wednesday said the Commission will act against anyone who promises to facilitate child marriage in Rajasthan in the run-up to the Assembly elections.
Responding to media questions on the remarks by Shobha Chouhan, the BJP candidate from Sojat Assembly seat, NCPCR chairperson Priyank Kanoongo said, “We will act against whoever is responsible for promoting child marriage. I was not aware of this issue but it doesn’t matter who is the person is – we will take cognizance of this matter.”
Rajasthan has the highest prevalence of child marriages in the country. The National Family Health Survey 4 (2015-16) showed that one out of every four women — or 26.8 per cent — aged 20-24 years in India was married off as a minor. In Rajasthan, the prevalence is 65 per cent.
At a recent election meeting in her constituency Chouhan was quoted as saying, “We have satta (power) and sangathan (organisation, or the state government) at our disposal. We will not let the police intervene in child marriages.”
The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act presently allows for child marriages, between a boy of under 21 years and a girl under 18 years of age, to be made voidable at the behest of the child-bride and the groom. As a result, the Act has been grossly inadequate in preventing child marriages.
Rajasthan, the state with the worst child marriage rates, registered merely 326 cases under the PCMA in 2016, and 293 cases in 2015. A proposal by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, seeking the Union Cabinet’s approval to an amendment to the Act and make child marriages void, has been pending.