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Report No. 205

Further the Committee on the Status of Women under CEDAW has criticized the fact that certain countries have different ages of marriage for boys and girls as follows:

"Some countries provide for different ages for marriage for men and women. As such provisions assume incorrectly that women have a different rate of intellectual development from men, or that their stage of physical and intellectual development at marriage is immaterial, these provisions should be abolished. In other countries, the betrothal of girls or undertakings by family members on their behalf is permitted. Such measures contravene not only the Convention, but also a woman's right freely to choose her partner."

Various International Conventions have emphasized the important principle that marriage should be on the basis of equality and with the full and free consent of the parties. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights,1948; provides that men and women are entitled to equal rights in marriage and marriage breakdown, and that both potential spouses should freely and fully consent to the marriage vide Article 16(2).3 Accordingly, the 1956 Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery and Practices Similar to Slavery considers forced marriage akin to slavery [Article 1(c)].

The 1964 Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages stipulates that a marriage requires the consent of both parties [Article 1]; calls upon parties to eliminate the marriage of girls under the age of puberty and requires that states stipulate a minimum age of marriage. The ICCPR[Article 23]4 and the ICESCR[Article 10]5 again reiterate that marriage shall be entered into with the free and full consent of both parties.

The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) to which India is a signatory, makes it obligatory for states to protect the child from all forms of mental or physical violence, injury or abuse, neglect, maltreatment and exploitation, including sexual exploitation. This inevitably happens in the case of a girl child when she is married while still a child.

1. Amnesty International, Indonesia: Exploitation and abuse: the plight of women domestic workers (Report), AI Index: ASA 21/001/2007, February 2007, p. 12.

2. Though India has made a reservation regarding Article 16(2) the reservation only deals with registration of marriage and not minimum of age of marriage. See CEDAW, General Recommendation 21, UN GAOR, 1994, Doc. No. A/47/38.

3. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights,1948 available on the United Nations website, , visited on December 2007.

4. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights available on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights website, , visited on December 2007.

5. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights available on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights website, , visited on December 2007.

Proposal to amend the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 and other allied Laws Back

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