Legislation alone may not be effective when social practices are deep-rooted; awareness and dialogue are needed too
Saksham Misra | December 17, 2021
The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal to amend the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act. The proposal seeks to increase the legal age of marriage for women from 18 to 21, bringing it at par with men. I welcome this proposal as a progressive move towards empowering women and strengthen the tenets of gender equality. But I have a fundamental concern with regards to the efficacy of the proposed amendment. By ‘efficacy’ I mean how effectively this amendment can bring the social changes in society and yield the desired outcomes for which it is proposed. This concern of efficacy is more pertinent in the context of personal laws because it pokes into our family affairs.
I argue that the efficacy of personal laws or any progressive legislation, which aims to bring about structural changes in society, highly depends on its ‘legitimacy’ and not purely on its content. The legitimacy of a law can be measured from its social acceptance – how smoothly society accepts the changes which the proposed legislation is bringing. If the changes are too radical, then it becomes difficult for a legislation to gain social acceptance.
Let me exemplify my argument. The recently repealed farm laws are a classic example of how a legislation aiming for making structural changes in the agriculture sector failed due to lack of social acceptance (legitimacy) by the farmers community. We need to learn from the farm laws episode that for bringing in structural changes in society through a legislation, we need to first do the groundwork of creating its social acceptance. This groundwork will develop social consensus for the changes which the law will bring.
Therefore, I am raising the concern of efficacy, as to how efficiently the proposed amendment related to the minimum age of marriage for women will gain social acceptance. This is a seminal issue in the context of rural India where child marriage is still deep-rooted. I doubt whether the rural and suburban India will accept the increase in the age of marriage, or would rather continue with their existing social practices. To put it more clearly, whether the said amendment will be socially accepted or it will remain on paper? This concern is relevant because we have a law in force which prohibits the child marriage but still we can see that the practice of child marriage is widespread.
I strongly believe that apart from taking legislative steps, the policymakers must create awareness and dialogue within society. The problems like child marriage cannot be resolved just by passing laws and penalising offences. Social problems like child marriage are deep-rooted and mostly they are intermixed with cultural or religious beliefs of society. They can be resolved by creating social awareness and initiating dialogue. This does not mean that I am rejecting the role of legislation in resolving social problems; rather I am suggesting that both legal and non-legal measures must be used to resolve social problems.
Misra is Assistant Professor, Indore Institute of Law (IIL).
From Dependence to Self-Reliance: Mapping India’s Rise as a Global Superpower By Bimal Jalan Rupa Publications, 184 pages, Rs 695 Bimal Jalan, a former governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), has been one of our finest commentators on econom
While many countries have been chasing to reach the carbon neutral status, only a few seem to be living up to their pledges as of now. The famous ’Paris Agreement’ of 2015 was glorified and celebrated that finally 196 countries have united with an intent to mitigate and reduce the greenhouse ga
The government this week announced the Tour of Duty or `Agnipath` scheme for the recruitment of soldiers in the armed forces. Under this scheme new soldiers will be recruited only for four years. This radical and far-reaching scheme has attracted mixed reactions from various quarters. While some officials
UPI has become an integral part of our daily lives now. We use it to buy groceries, we use it to send money to friends and family, we use it to purchase tickets, book shows, pay the cab driver, and a whole host of other things due to the ease and availability of such a platform at our fingertips. The best
Scorching Love: Letters from Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi to his son, Devadas By Gopalkrishna Gandhi and Tridip Suhrud Oxford University Press, 528 page, Rs 1495 Gandhi’s era happened to be an era when letter-writing was a primary mode of communica
Crediting the citizens of Mumbai for coming forward to help the police in combating the crisis situation due to Covid-19, Mumbai police commissioner Sanjay Pandey has said that Mumbai Police lost quite a few policemen during the pandemic but cumulative efforts, with citizens working hand in hand with the p