The findings of PLD’s research complicate and disrupt the mainstream narrative on the role of the law by bringing to the fore the different child marriage practices in India; the social complexities and inequalities that drive child and early marriage; the incongruous ways that the law is being used in practice; and the potential that exists in the law’s application by judges and community-based organisations. 

In doing so, new guiding principles and fresh proposals for transformative legal approaches to uphold and advance the rights of girls emerge. These proposals are relevant in India and globally, wherever and amongst whomever child, early and forced marriage and unions are a concern.

Advocates, policymakers, donors and others must resist the temptation to weave the plurality of girls’ experiences into one single, mainstream narrative centered on the forced, exploitative nature of all marriages under the legal age.

Going forward, the narrative must reflect the diverse reality of girls’ experiences, and recommendations for law reform must correlate with research findings, such as those from India, on how the law is implemented in each context.