Kashmir: Govt Brings New Act To Stop Child Marriages In J&K

IOK - Indian Occupied Kashmir Jammu & Kashmir

Underage Marriages To Be Annulled, Informers To Be Suitably Awarded

Srinagar- In order to keep a check on underage marriages, the Jammu and Kashmir government has drafted an Act for the prohibition of child marriages through which child marriage prohibition officers (CPMOs) will be appointed and people informing about the wedding of minors will be suitably awarded.

According to an order from the Social Welfare Department, a copy of which lies with Kashmir Observer, the Act will be known as “Jammu and Kashmir Prohibition of Child Marriage Rules, 2023″ under The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 (Centre Act 6 of 2007).

The Lieutenant Governor has empowered a number of officials in exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (1) of Section 19 of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. Under new rules, child marriage prohibition officers have been designated to keep track of the weddings of minors.

The child marriage prohibition officers include Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Chief Education Officer (CEO), Zonal Education Officer (ZEO), Block Medical Officer (BMO), Block Development Officer (BDO), Assistant Labour Commissioner, Assistant Commissioner (Panchayat), District Social Welfare Officer, Child Development Protection Officer, Tehsildar and Naib Tehsildar.

The officers have been asked to act as child marriage prohibition officer in terms of Section 16(1) of the Act within their respective jurisdiction.

The child marriage prohibition officer have been asked to act immediately upon any information of solemnization of any child marriage that he/she may received through any mode of communication including written or oral and has to initiate all necessary action.

The officials have to furnish quarterly return and statistics to the District Magistrate concerned and the Directorates of Social Welfare department.

The officials have to file petition before a Judicial Magistrate First class/ Metropolitan Magistrate for obtaining information prohibiting a child marriage.

They have to file petition for annulling a child marriage in District Court in case any of the contracting party to the marriage is minor.

They have also been asked to file petition before the District Court for maintenance and residence to the female contracting party of the marriage until her remarriage and to file petition before the District Court for the custody and maintenance of children of such marriages.

“Any person in the best interest of the child, may also file a petition through Child Marriage Prohibition Officer,” reads the order.

The government has invited interested individuals, organizations , government, statutory bodies and all other interested stakeholders to provide their suggestions and comments to the Social Welfare Department on email id socialwelfare.ciss@gmail.com within 15 days from the issuance of this notice beyond which no suggestions shall be entertained.

In October last, KO reported that the percentage of underage girls getting married has significantly flared up in 8 years. Overall, the proportion of women who were married before attaining 18 years of age increased by 0.9 percent from 2012 until 2020.

The Act has also empowered Child Marriage Prohibition Officer with the powers of Police Officer as prescribed in Section 156, 160, 161, 165 and 175 of Criminal Procedure Code subject to the condition that such powers are exercised by the said officer herself/ himself within her/ his jurisdiction for taking cognizance of offences prescribed under the Act.

It further reads that the District Magistrate shall ensure that in every Panchayat, a Committee comprising of the following persons is constituted to assist the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer in obtaining information about such child marriages, in prevention of such ceremonies and in annulling of such marriages.

It says that it shall be the duty of local priests of any religion bestowed with the solemnization of marriages, to inform the Child Marriage Prohibition Officer of her/ his area about the likelihood of such child marriages and shall refrain from solemnizing such marriages with a view to prevent such instances of child marriage.

The act has also announced suitable awards for such persons on whose initiatives/ information the incidents) of child marriages are prevented.

“The District Magistrates shall also felicitate such persons on suitable occasions of National importance,” it reads.

However, Commissioner Secretary, Social Welfare Department (SWD), Sheetal Nanda refuted the reports that the child marriages in the UT were high.

“If you compare the data of J&K with other states, the numbers are very less. We have formed an Act and we have put it out on the website. We request people and other stakeholders to give their suggestions” Nanda said.

She further added that the department will launch awareness campaigns throughout J&K regarding the child marriage act.__Kashmir Observer