Rajasthan endorsing child marriage?

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Rajasthan endorsing child marriage?

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Jaipur:  The Rajasthan government now appears to be on the backfooot after its controversial announcement that it will register all marriages including child marriages.

Barely 24 hours after ordering the registration of child marriages, the Rajasthan government is now struggling to explain its decision.

The government claims that far from legalising such marriages, their new initiative will help to keep tabs on the number of child marriages in the state.

"If a child marriage happens and we register it, it will not make such marriages legal. Instead we hope that if registration is done, then it will also make the detection of such marriages easy," said Shanti Dhariwal , Home Minister, Rajasthan.

But social activists, especially women's groups say this is a highly questionable decision, as it seems to use the lacunae in the law which allows child marriages to continue unless challenged by the minors themselves when they become adults.

Also the Child Marriage Prevention Act lacks teeth and there is no provision to automatically punish society and the parents who organise child marriages.

"Child marriages are illegal, so how can they be registered? I think the Rajasthan government is creating a contradiction. Under the amendments to the Sharda Act, child brides had the right to annul their marriages after attaining adulthood. But this decision will wipe out that basic right also," said Nisha Sidhu, Social Activist.

Activists also demand that the government should focus not on registering child marriages but on preventing them because often child marriages are organised like mass community weddings and therefore governments lack political will to clamp down on them.

A stamp of registration may also just make it that much more difficult for partners to get out of child marriages, and activists feel the government should do much more to help girls, who are child brides, to make informed choices rather than bind them down by legalities like registration.

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