Child marriage restraint act 1929
The child marriage restraint act fixed the marriage ages 14 and 18 years for girls and boys respectively. This act was a legislative act passed on 28 September 1929. It is also known as the Sharda act after its sponsor Harbilas Sharda.
At present, the provision of the Child Marriage Act, 2006 sets the marriageable age for girls at 18 years and 21 years for boys.
How was it formed?
Various bills were introduced in the Indian legislature raising questions on the age of consent but they were all defeated.
The All India Women’s conference, Women’s Indian Association and National Council of women in India favoured raising the age for marriage and consent before the Joshi Committee.
Even Muslim women presented their views to the Joshi committees despite the fact they would face opposition from Muslim ulemas. These women were in favour of raising the age limit of marriage.
After this, the Joshi committee presented its report on 20 June 1989. It was passed by the Imperial Legislative council on 28 September 1929.
After the approval from Lord Irwin extending to the whole of British India, it became a law on 1st April 1930. Now, the marriageable ages for girls and boys were 14 and 18 respectively in all communities.
The objective of this act
In 1929, the Child Marriage Restraint Act was enacted to eradicate the evil of child marriage. The main objective was to eliminate the special evil which had the potential danger to the life and health of a female child and the early deaths of such minor mothers. They were not able to handle the stress and strains of married life.
Significance of the child marriage restaurant act
This act was the first social reform issue taken up by an organised women’s group in the country. This group of women stressed many politicians into supporting the act by picketing their delegations, shouting slogans and holding placards.
They thought that the passing of this act would show the world that India is serious about social reforms. Indian women were challenging the double standards of ancient Shastras by supporting this act. It declared that they would begin to make their own laws free of male influence. The women’s organisation brought liberal management to the forefront.
However, this act was a complete failure but it was a victory for the women’s movement in the country. It was an active bill.
There were 473 prosecutions of which only 167 were successful in the 2 years and 5 months. Maximum cases were in Punjab and the United Provinces.
Nevertheless, this act remained a failure during the colonial period of British rule in India because the British government did nothing to propagate awareness of it, especially in smaller towns and villages of India, as per Jawaharlal Nehru.
Jawaharlal Nehru illuminates that this was mainly due to the fact that the British did not want to earn the annoyance of the communal elements among the Hindus and Muslims.
The British government did not want to lose the support of these communal groups because these were the only parties in India that continued to support British rule in 1930.
Therefore, they focus their attention on preventing the Indian freedom movement rather than on implementing this and similar social reforms.
Hence, their dual policy prevented any significant social reform in the country.
Under this act, no court can take cognizance of any offence after the expiry of 1 year from the date on which the offence is to have been committed and it further weakens the efficacy of the law.
As per this act, if anybody found conducting, directing or performing a child marriage shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment which may extend to 2 years and shall be liable to a fine which may extend to 1 lakh rupees.