Friday, April 08, 2016

Why hasn't India signed 1962 UN convention on minimum age of marriage, registration? asks UNICEF document

By Our Representative
A recent UNICEF document, “Reducing Child Marriage in India: A model to scale up results?” has sharply criticized the Government of India authorities for failing to sign up a more than five-decades old United Nations document crucial document seeking complete abolition of child labour.
The study, released in January 2016, says: “India is not a signatory to the UN Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages (1962)”, insisting, “This means it has not committed itself to the provisions of marriage only by clearly expressed consent of both parties, who have to be of an age competent to give legal consent.”
Even as pointing out that India is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, “which mentions elimination of child marriage”, the UNICEF document has characterized the failure to sign up the 1962 convention as an “ambiguity in its commitment to the international community” to abolish child marriage.
No doubt, the document says, “India has adopted laws to declare the practice of child marriage illegal and implemented a number of schemes to prevent it... The first act against child marriage, the Sarda Act, came as early as 1929”, it notes, adding, “It was later renamed as the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929.”
"After almost seven decades”, UNICEF notes, “It was replaced by the new Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA 2006)”, suggesting these are piecemeal solutions.“Despite the new law and designated officials and roles, the enforcement has been extremely slow and the number of cases reported is very low”, it adds.
Quoting from the 2014 compendium of Crime in India to show official indifference towards child marriage, the document says, it lists “just 280 reported cases of child marriage (National Crime Records Bureau), which obviously does not begin to reflect the true extent of child marriage in India.”
The document says, there are “more than 47 per cent of women in the age group of 20-24 years were reported to have married before attaining the age of 18 in 2005-2006, adding, “The 2011 census estimates nearly 17 million children in the age group of 10-19 years to be married.”
“Although a substantial body of research exists on the factors that contribute to the prevalence, and a large number of policy and programme interventions are in place, the rate of change in child marriage has been slow in India”, the document underlines.
Thus, it says, “Between 1990 and 2005, child marriages declined at a rate of just 1 per cent per year. Since 2005, the rate in the decline has accelerated to 2 per cent per year.” It adds, “A comparative analysis of Census 2001 and 2011 reveals that there has been a change of -1.04 percentage points for married girls in the age group 15-19 years.”
“This trend is common for all India as well as high prevalence states (Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and West Bengal)”, the document – which focuses on the four states – points out, adding, “The ratio of girls married below the age of 18 is much higher in rural areas compared to urban areas (69:31) in relation to the overall distribution of the rural-urban population in the country.

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