Assam CM vows to repeal Assam Muslim Marriages and Divorces Registration Act which allows child marriage

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Biswa said that he will have the Assam Muslim Marriages and Divorces Registration Act repealed because one of its provisions allows child marriage

In a bold statement, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has vowed to eradicate child marriage in the state, particularly in the Muslim community. This move has sparked a heated debate in the state assembly, raising concerns about transparency, potential community impact, and the overall effectiveness in addressing the issue.

During a recent assembly session, Sarma declared his strong commitment to eradicate child marriage, specifically mentioning Muslim communities. His statement, "I will not allow you (Opposition) to play with the future of innocent Muslim children," was met with strong reactions from opposition parties like the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and the Congress.

The Assam Assembly became the battleground for heated discussions as the Chief Minister announced a proposal to repeal the "Assam Muslim Marriages and Divorces Registration Act." Sarma argued that specific provisions within the Act inadvertently facilitate child marriages, a practice the state is determined to abolish.

Critics, including some civil society organisations, raise concerns about the potential for the legislation to disproportionately impact Muslim communities, even though child marriage is not exclusive to any particular religion or group. They emphasise the need for a comprehensive approach that addresses the issue holistically and ensures the protection of all communities.

The situation escalated during the assembly proceedings when AIUDF MLA Karim Uddin Barbhuiya's request for the adjournment motion was denied by Speaker Biswajit Daimary, who stated the matter was yet to be introduced in the House. The Congress, led by opposition leader Debabrata Saikia, criticised the Chief Minister for not informing the assembly prior to taking the cabinet decision, especially during an ongoing session.

Chief Minister Sarma retorted, explaining the legislative process and affirming that the decision was within the rule of law: "The rule is that a bill is first approved in the cabinet and then introduced in the House. We want to repeal the Act because it has a provision of child marriage. A cabinet decision has been taken."

Following this exchange, Congress MLAs walked out of the assembly, while AIUDF members staged a sit-in protest before the speaker.

Building on existing efforts and central to the government's strategy is the stringent application of existing laws against child marriage. Previously, the CM announced that men marrying girls below 14 years would be booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. This declaration was part of a broader campaign to sensitise the public about the legal and social ramifications of child marriages, aiming to deter such practices through the threat of severe legal consequences. Notably, while the exact prevalence of child marriage in the state is debated, UNICEF estimates that 26.8% of girls in Assam are married before the age of 18.