Guwahati: The Assam government will initiate legal action against men marrying minor girls under the POCSO Act and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act.
Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday said the Assam cabinet has decided to book men who marry girls below 14 years in the state under the POCSO Act.
Chief Minister Sarma said Assam has a ”high” rate of maternal and infant mortality and the primary cause for that is child marriage.
“We have decided to make the campaign against child marriage a priority in governance and we hope to end it in the next five years”, Sarma told reporters after a cabinet meeting on Monday.
The state has an average of 31 per cent of marriages in the ”prohibited age”, he added.
The POCSO Act of 2012 defines a child as an individual under the age of 18 and it criminalises sex between an under-age child and an adult.
The Chief Minister said a husband cannot “touch” his wife if she is below the age of 14 as this amounts to a sexual offence and the male partner is liable to be sentenced to life imprisonment under POCSO Act in Assam.
Asked about the legal action if both partners are below the age of 14, the chief minister said that in that case the marriage will be declared illegal and the boy will be sent to a juvenile home as minors cannot be tried in court.
Those marrying girls in the age group of 14-18, will be tried under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, and necessary steps will be taken against them under this law, he said.
The legal age for marriage is 18 years for women and 21 for men.
The police have been directed to conduct a massive crackdown against child marriage, carry out an awareness campaign against the problem, and take legal action against those who are violating norms in this regard, the chief minister said.
A massive drive against child marriage will be launched in the state and the police along with the district authorities have been asked to investigate the cases and counsel people against child marriage.