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Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929, Importance, Objective, Limitation

Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929

The Child Marriage Restraint Act passed on 28 September 1929, set the marriageable age for girls at 14 years and for boys at 18 years. It is commonly referred to as the Sharda Act, named after its sponsor, Harbilas Sarda. However, the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, enacted in 2006, now establishes the marriageable age as 18 for girls and 21 for boys.

Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 Overview

Candidates can check the table provided below for a brief explanation of the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929.

Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 Overview
 Title An Act to define the age of marriage in India
Territorial Extent The whole of British India, with Princely states being exempted.
Enacted by Imperial Legislative Council
Enacted 28 September 1929
Commenced 29 September 1929
Status Amended

How was Child Marriage Restraint Act Formed?

  • Various bills about the age of consent were proposed and rejected in Indian legislatures.
  • Women’s organizations like the All India Women’s Conference, Women’s Indian Association, and National Council of Women argued for raising the marriage age and consent.
  • Muslim women also supported increasing the marriage age, despite knowing they might face opposition from Muslim leaders.
  • The Joshi Committee presented its report on June 20, 1929.
  • The report was approved by the Imperial Legislative Council on September 28, 1929.
  • The law came into effect on April 1, 1930, applying to all of British India.
  • The new law set the marriageable age at 14 for girls and 18 for boys in all communities.

Background of Child Marriage Restraint Act

  • In the past, there were several attempts to make laws about how old someone needs to be to agree to marriage in India, but none of them worked.
  • To deal with this, they formed a group called the Joshi Committee to suggest the right age for marriage and agree to it for both boys and girls in India.
  • Different groups like the All India Women’s Conference, Women’s Indian Association, and National Council of Women in India supported raising the age for marriage and agreeing to it, and they told the Joshi Committee what they thought.
  • Even Muslim women wanted the age for marriage to be higher, even though some Muslim religious leaders didn’t agree.
  • Finally, on June 26, 1929, the Joshi Committee gave their report, and on September 28, 1929, the big group in charge said it was okay.
  • On April 1, 1930, it became a law after getting the approval of Lord Irwin, who was in charge of India at that time.
    People call this law the Child Marriage Restraint Act, or they also call it the Sharda Act.

Objectives of Child Marriage Restraint Act

The Child Marriage Restraint Act has several goals:

  • Stop Child Marriages: The main aim of the Act is to prevent young children from getting married.
  • Protect kids: It wants to make sure that children are safe and their rights are respected by not allowing them to get married when they are too young.
  • Support Education: The Act encourages kids to go to school by discouraging early marriages. It knows that getting married early can often stop children, especially girls, from going to school.
  • Ensure Consent: It wants to make sure that people who get married are old enough to understand and agree to it, so their rights and choices are protected.
  • Punish Wrongdoers: The Act sets rules and punishments for those who organize or take part in child marriages. It hopes to discourage these practices by making them illegal.
  • Change Society: The Act hopes to make people think differently about the well-being and growth of children and make sure they are safe from early marriages.

Punishments According to the Child Marriage Restraint Act

The punishments for different individuals involved in child marriages in India are as follows:

  • If a male adult aged between eighteen and twenty-one marries a child, they could face up to fifteen days of simple imprisonment, a fine of up to one thousand rupees, or both. However, a male adult above twenty-one years who contracts a child marriage may be subject to simple imprisonment for up to three months and a fine.
  • Those who solemnize or conduct child marriages may also be punished, facing simple imprisonment for up to three months and a fine, unless they can prove that they had good reason to believe it was not a child marriage.
  • Furthermore, if a minor is involved in a child marriage, anyone responsible for the minor, whether a parent, guardian or in any other capacity, can be penalized with up to three months of simple imprisonment and a fine. It’s important to note that women cannot be punished with imprisonment in these cases.
  • It’s assumed that the person in charge of the minor negligently failed to prevent the marriage from happening if a child marriage occurs unless they can prove otherwise. These laws aim to discourage and penalize those involved in child marriages and protect the rights and well-being of minors.

Features of the Child Marriage Restraint Act

  1. The Sharda Act applied to all of British India and said girls could marry at 14, and boys at 18.
  2. Some places ruled by princes didn’t have to follow this law.
  3. But another law, the Prevention of Child Marriage Act, says girls must be 18 and boys 21 to marry.
  4. The Indian government made a committee called the Jaya Jaitley Committee to talk about making the age for women to get married higher and to work on other things that help women.
  5. These rules are meant to make sure people marry at the right age and to make life better for women in India.

Importance of the Child Marriage Restraint Act

  • The Child Marriage Restraint Act was the first social reform issue taken up by an organized women’s group in India.
  • This group used protests, signs, and slogans to pressure politicians into supporting the act, hoping to demonstrate India’s commitment to social reforms.
  • By supporting the act, Indian women challenged the gender-biased rules of ancient texts and brought liberal feminism to the forefront.
  • Despite its passage, the act didn’t effectively prevent child marriages. In over two years, there were 473 prosecutions, with only 167 resulting in convictions.
  • Most cases occurred in Punjab and the United Provinces.
  • During the colonial British rule, the act remained poorly enforced. Jawaharlal Nehru explained that this was because the British government didn’t want to upset Hindu and Muslim communal groups who supported British rule.
  • In the 1930s, only these communal groups supported British rule, so the British government focused on preventing the Indian freedom movement instead of implementing social reforms.
  • This approach, known as the “Dual Policy,” hindered significant social reform in India.
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