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Governing Marriage in India: (Re-)Negotiating Lakshman Rekha


· Elvira Graner South Asia Institute (Heidelberg, Germany)
· Samita Sen Heidelberg Univ. (Heidelberg, Germany)


07/27 | 09:40-10:00 UTC+2/CEST


While common across the world, in India child marriages are of high political concern, due to the country’s particular demographic profile. Being home to the largest group of girl brides worldwide, the state maintained that it is primarily a “cultural practice”, and thus kept turning a blind eye over the past decades. Yet, besides addressing it as a crucial obstacle for development goals, more recent discourses even depict it as a violation of human rights. This paper will outline the core features that define child marriage in India, and the government’s recent attempt(s) to re-define this core aspect of “Lakshman Rekha”. It will briefly summarise the legal reform processes, sketching the long and tedious way to finally pass the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act in 2006. It will portray the core aspects of child marriage in India, such as low annual rates of decline, along with vast regional and social disparities. These will be illustrated by a current project from West Bengal. Based on Fukuyama’s (2013) ideas of governance as “a government’s ability to make and enforce rules, and to deliver services” it will then address child marriage from a broader angle of exclusion and lack of citizenship.