The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has strongly opposed the new amendment to the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act, 2009, and asked the state’s Ashok Gehlot-led government to review and reconsider the bill. The NCPCR chairman, Priyank Kanoongo said that the organisation, which is responsible for upholding child rights, also wrote a letter to Rajasthan’s governor – Kalraj Mishra – and informed him of how the amendment will promoted crimes against children in the state.
The new amendment adds to the Act, which states that it is mandatory to register all types of marriages, including child marriages. In the case of minors, the new law says that their parents or guardians should register their marriage. The new bill has been sparking uproar among child rights activists and opposition leaders since it was introduced in the Rajasthan assembly earlier this month.
Expressing his extreme indignation over the amendment regarding child marriages in Rajasthan, Kanoongo slammed the Ashok Gehlot government and said that the move will only “instigate rape” in the state. Speaking with the Sparrow News, he said that Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is playing with children’s career and their rights, just for the sake of votes.
“Child marriages are completely void under sections 3 and 4 of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act. Section 2 (14, xii) of the Juvenile Justice Act also says that victims of child marriages are in need of care and protection,” said Kanoongo. He added, “Having any kind of sexual relationship with a minor is rape. So by doing this, the Ashok Gehlot government is trying the instigate rape in the state.”
“Hum unhe (Rajasthan government) theek kar denge… hum yeh kala kanoon nahi lane denge,” (We will teach them. We will not allow this black law to come into force) said Kanoongo. According to him, the move is political appeasement and CM Gehlot has done it to make some communities who support child marriage happy for the sake of vote banks.
Amid the huge controversy, the Gehlot government said that they did nothing wrong by passing the law in the assembly. According to the lawmakers, the bill is based on the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Seema vs Ashwani Kumar case (2006). The Chief Minister’s office said in a statement that the new amendment does not support child marriages in the state and only ensures compulsory registration of marriages.
Kanoongo said that the state government is lying by saying that they are following the Supreme Court’s order. “The government is trying to demolish Mahatma Gandhi’s work against child marriages in the society. This is the worst level of politics… when you use children to satisfy your vote banks. Who are they trying to deceive?” he said.
Kanoongo further added that the NCPCR has enough substance to take this matter to the parliament and submit a report before all the lawmakers about how the Rajasthan government is violating the rights of the children. “The petition against the bill is also ready and if we need to, we will challenge this move in the court,” he said. He ensured that this bill will never become an act.
Kanoongo also lambasted child rights activists for not raising their voices against the bill. “They are becoming part of this politics and their personal interests,” he said. The child rights body had also written a letter to the governor and expressed their concerns, saying that the enactment of the bill may have a serious impact on the physical, psychological, social well-being and education of minors in the state.
The amendment that has triggered a political stir across the country, allows for the registration of child marriages, i.e. marriages of girls and boys below the age of 18. The minors’ parents will be able to register their children’s marriage if the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages (Amendment) Bill, 2021 is implemented.
The state government has defended its move by saying that they made only “technical changes” in the existing law, and that it is not validating child marriage in the state.
The BJP, which forms the opposition party in the state, has accused the Gehlot government of promoting child marriages in Rajasthan. Last week, hundreds of BJP youth workers staged a protest against the bill and submitted a memorandum to repeal the law.
Many social malpractices such as child marriages still continue to prevail in many parts of the state to this day. According to an IndiaSpend report, one in four women in Rajasthan marries before the prescribed legal age of 18.