Why in News?
- Recently, the Assam government has arrested over 2,000 men in a campaign against child marriages that have taken place in the state.
- The men who married girls below 14 years of age would be booked under the Protection of Children From Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and those marrying girls between the age of 14 and 18 years would be booked under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA), 2006.
- The POCSO act, of 2012 criminalises sex between a minor and an adult. The law does not recognize a minor’s consent as valid.
- Sexual assault under POCSO is a non-bailable, cognisable offence. This means that the police can make an arrest without warrant.
- So, a presumption of sexual assault is being made in cases of child marriage involving minor girls below the age of 14.
- Sexual assault, that is not penetrative, carries a minimum imprisonment of three years that may extend to five years with a fine.
- Under Section 19, the Act imposes a “mandatory reporting obligation” which requires every person who suspects or has knowledge of a sexual offence being committed against a child must report it to the police or the Special Juvenile Police Unit. Failure to do so will result in imprisonment, a fine, or both.
- Under Muslim personal laws, the marriage of a bride who has attained puberty is considered.
- Puberty is presumed, in the absence of evidence, on completion of the age of fifteen years.
- This gap between Muslim personal law and special legislation prohibiting child marriages or sexual activity of minors puts a shadow on criminality in such marriages.