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As per the definition in Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, an adult woman is a woman who is over the age of 18 and an adult male is a male over the age of 21.
A male adult over the age of 18 who marries a female child is punished u/s. 9 of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. However, an adult female who marries a ‘male child’ is not punished under the same gambit.
The Supreme Court explained this double standard and went and examined the reason for introducing this bill in the first place. The Supreme Court explained that:
“However, an adult woman is exempt from punishment for marrying a male child as, in a society like ours, decisions regarding marriage are usually taken by the family members of the bride and groom, and women generally have little say in the matter. We hasten to emphasise that we do not wish to comment on the desirability of maintaining the aforesaid distinction in culpability. However, the context in which this distinction was considered appropriate by the legislature must be taken into account.Thus, it can be inferred that the intention behind punishing only male adults contracting child marriages is to protect minor young girls from the negative consequences thereof by creating a deterrent effect for prospective grooms who, by virtue of being above eighteen years of age are deemed to have the capacity to opt out of such marriages.”
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