Accepting that ‘child marriages continue to
take place at some places in Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh,’ and that ‘it
is also prevalent in West Bengal,’ Women and Child Development Minister of
Krishna Tirath has told the Rajya Sabha that a national action plan is being
prepared to prevent child marriages.

As per the National Health Survey (2005–06),
the percentage of women in the age group of 18–29 years who married before
reaching the legal age of 18 is 45.6 per cent. While this proved the prevalence
of child marriage in the country, the minister assured that the incidence of such
marriages had come down during the last decade.

In Rajasthan, child marriages have fallen
from 58.4 per cent of all marriages to 21.9 per cent currently. In Chhattisgarh
the rate of decline is from 50.5 per cent to 6 per cent; in Bihar, from 63.7 per
cent to 20.2 per cent; and in Madhya Pradesh, from 52.6 per cent to 17.5 per
cent. In Assam, child marriages as percentage of all marriages have fallen from
38.2 per cent to 10.2 per cent.

Since November 2010 the women and child
development ministry has been implementing a scheme called Sabala for
empowering adolescent girls in 205 districts of the country. Minister Krishna
Tirath informed that in addition to conducting awareness campaigns to bring
attitudinal changes to prevent child marriage, efforts were on to tackle the
problem through close coordination with state governments for effective
implementation of the law.

It may be
noted that in Rajasthan the state government this month issued a directive that
the birthdates of bride and groom be printed on the wedding invitations. According
to the directive, if a printing press owner finds that either the bride or the groom
are not of legal age for marriage, he will turn down the print order and report
the proposed wedding to the respective district administration, so that it can
be prevented. Printing press owners who are found flouting the orders will face
arrest and six months’ imprisonment, and will also be fined Rs 1,000 ($18).