Child Marriage Current Affairs
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West Bengal Government has announced to remove annual family income ceiling in eligibility criteria to be beneficiary under state’s UN award winning Kanyashree Prakalpa scheme. This will help more girls to chase their dreams with Government support. Currently only girls belonging to families with annual family income not more than Rs 1.20 lakh were entitled to get the benefits of this scheme. State government is also planning to set up “Kanyashree University” under this scheme for girls soon.
Kanyashree Prakalpa scheme
It is conditional cash transfer scheme aimed at improving status and well-being of girl child by incentivising schooling of teenage girls and delaying their marriages until the age of 18. It was launched by Mamata Banerjee led West Bengal Government (Women Development and Social Welfare department) in October 2013. It was aimed at increasing educational attainment of girls, prevention of child marriage and financial inclusion.
Objectives: Improve lives and status of the adolescent girls in State. Provide financial help to girls from disadvantaged families to pursue higher studies (now it will cover every girl from state). Prevent child marriage. Improved outcomes in terms of their health (especially facilitate the prevention of infant and maternal mortality). Contribute towards empowerment of girls in the state. Bring immeasurable benefits for the larger society as a whole.
Targeted Beneficiaries: All girl children within age of 13 to 19 in the state. Girls regularly attending institutions for education or vocational or sports training. Girls of Child Care Institutes registered under Juvenile Justice Act (JJ), 2000 within age of 18-19 years.
Components of Scheme
- Annual Scholarship of Rs. 500: It is for unmarried girls aged 13-18 years enrolled in classes VIII-XII in government recognized regular or equivalent open school or equivalent vocational or technical training course.
- One time Grant of Rs. 25,000: It is for girls turned 18 at time of application, enrolled in government recognized regular or open school and colleges or pursuing vocational or technical training or sports activity or is inmate of Home registered under JJ Act.
Progress: So far around 50 lakh girls from the state have been benefited by scheme and removal of ceiling will help another three lakh more girls annually. Since its launch, it has helped to reduce number of school drop out of girls by nearly 11.5%.The scheme was awarded United Nations Public Service Award in June 2017.
The Supreme Court has criminalised sex between man and his underage wife below 18 years provided the woman files a complaint within a year. The landmark order fixes the age of consent at 18 for all girls.
The apex court gave its order on a petition filed by NGO Independent Thought which had challenged exception clause (2) in Section 375 IPC (which deals with rape).
What is the issue?
The clause (2) of Section 375 IPC had created dichotomy over age of consent as it says intercourse or sexual act by a man with his wife, not below 15 years, is not rape. According to NGO Independent Thought’s petition, this exception clause was against objectives of Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (which sets 18 years as statutory marriageable age for girls) and also violation of international conventions to which India was a signatory.
The Supreme Court held that age of marriage was 18 in all laws and exception given in rape law under clause (2) of Section 375 of IPC was arbitrary and was violates the rights of a girl child. It is violates Article 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution. Moreover it was contrary to the philosophy of other statutes and violates the bodily integrity of a girl child. It asked the Centre and states to take proactive steps to prohibit child marriage across country. The apex court also clarified that it has not dealt with the issue of marital rape as it was not raised before it.