Minister for Women and Children said the new Prohibition of Child Marriage Bill 2006 has tighter regulations that would heap jail terms and fines on priests, police, and local leaders if they willfully permit child marriages. Renuka Chowdhury says that tens of thousands of children are forced in marriages every year dismissing claims by some communities that the child gave "his or her consent" and argued that the children are "coerced, bullied, black-mailed, and emotionally exploited."
Non-governmental organizations and government data indicate that the marriage age of women is slowly increasing but 65% of girls are married before the age of 18 who are mostly in poorer states. Early marriage contributes to easily avoidable high maternal mortality rates and occurs mostly in the so-called Hindi cow-belt. Several studies have clearly shown a correlation between literacy, marriageable age, and quality of life-higher the level of education higher the marriageable age and quality of life.
Indian law prohibits the marriage of women under 18 and men less than 21 but lax implementation has allowed the practice to go on. Under this new bill, adult males marrying children and people involved in performing, abetting or attending a child marriage can face up to two years in prison and a fine of Rupees 100,000. The new law also requires each state to appoint child marriage prohibition officers to stop the practice and collect evidence for prosecution of questionable cases. It will declare child marriages null and void even as the husband will be forced to pay maintenance and provide shelter to the former wife.