‘Apply Prohibition of Child Marriage Act to Muslim girls too’

Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan demands its smooth implementation

geetanjali

Geetanjali Minhas | January 8, 2022 | Mumbai


#Society   #marriage   #child marriage   #Islam   #religion   #personal law  
(Illustration: Ashish Asthana)
(Illustration: Ashish Asthana)

The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), an autonomous, rights-based organisation working for the reform of Muslim Family Law for the last 15 years, has called for making the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, applicable to Muslims so that girls from the community can also benefit from the law or its amendment.
 
In a statement, BMMA has said that the Quran is not in favour of child marriage whereas the Shariah understanding is that the age of marriage is the onset of puberty or 15 years.
 
The Constitution of India conveys a powerful mandate for equality and rights of women in its Preamble, Fundamental Rights and Duties and provides for specific provisions for affirmative action. India is a signatory to a number of UN Conventions, mainly CEDAW, Beijing Platform for Action and Convention on Rights of Child. India has also endorsed the 2030 SDGs by addressing key challenges like poverty, inequality and VAW.
 
The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, though a national law applicable to all citizens, is still not made applicable to the Muslim community. Although a court judgment of 2017 does say that PCMA is a secular law applicable to all, the Supreme Court has not given an authoritative verdict on the same. It says that some high courts (Punjab and Haryana high court) have said that personal laws could override the PCMA, 2006. The high courts of Gujarat and Karnataka have said that PCMA, 2006 will prevail over personal laws.
 
Emphasizing that along with the applicability of law, its implementation is equally important
Noorjehan Safia Niaz, co-founder, Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, said, “We welcome raising the age of marriage to 21 and want this amendment to PCMA, 2006 to state unequivocally that this law applies to the Muslim community also; otherwise a Muslim girl does not stand to benefit from this law or its amendment. Other than amendments in the law, the state must focus on its implementation.”
 
She added that the draft National Policy for Women, 2016 must address this exemption in law and must make the PCMA, 2016 applicable to the Muslim community as well. “Sadly, the National Policy for Children, 2013 does not even mention child marriage. This policy statement must be amended to mention child marriage and its impact on the child’s overall development. It must also mention that the laws related to children, specifically PCMA, 2006 must be made applicable to the Muslim community as well,” she said.
 
To ensure that the law is not only applied but also implemented uniformly for Muslim girls, BMMA has asked if the implementation of the law is going to be any better even if the age is raised to 21 and if the police and the entire state apparatus including the courts function efficiently and effectively. It asks for the state also take responsibility for setting up enough schools and colleges and other infrastructure to enable girls to enter school and support them till they finish their education, to fully implement all the schemes, programmes for the welfare of the girl child, increase budgets for their health as well as scholarships and halt or control increasing privatization of education and health services.  
 
It further says that the law must also consider those girls and couples who by force may enter into an early marriage. “What protection does this law have for them? We demand that the parliamentary committee consider these issues.”

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