Need law to declare child marriage void: Shantha Sinha
New Delhi, Nov 6 (IANS) National Commission for Protection of Child Rights chairperson Shantha Sinha Tuesday said a strong anti-child marriage law was needed, that would declare void all marriages between children, to stop the social menace.
Speaking at a conference organised by Women Power Connect and Ford Foundation, Sinha said the commission was planning to include this in the policy on adolescents, currently under formulation.
"It is a failure that we don't have a law that declares child marriage void. We worry what will happen to the girl, it is like saying because we are not able to take care of you, we should let you be married off," Sinha said.
Asked if the NCPCR is recommending that the government bring changes to the Prohibition of Child Marriages Act, she said, "We are working on a policy on adolescents, in which we will include this recommendation".
Talking about underage girls eloping to get married, Sinha said it was because society did not allow space for girls to express their sexuality, and there was little discussion of it, that young girls opted to elope.
"Why do they elope, we need to see what other options were given to that girl to express her sexuality. The social structure is such it doesn't allow girls and boys to mix. We will have to do research on elopement; we need to explain to the girls that they will have many crushes, but they can wait," she said.
Sinha also stressed on the creation of "safe zones" like hostels for girls who escape child marriages.
Speaking earlier, Women Power Connect president Ranjana Kumari, quoting the latest figures, said that South Asia had the highest child marriage rate, India being at the top.
"According to the NFHS (National Family Health Survey) III, 47 percent girls get married before the age of 18," she said.
According to reports from various UN agencies, more than 40 percent of the world's child marriages happen in India. In eight states of the country, more than half of young girls are married before the age of 18.