NEW DELHI: According to NDTV, more than 85 years after the first law to outlaw child marriage was enacted, official statistics show that the practice is still prevalent in a large number of states. On Thursday, a top Supreme Court judge said laws prohibiting the menace had failed because laws often could not force societies to change. And it did not help if a social evil banned by a law had sanction from the society or personal laws of a religion.

Speaking at the release of an analysis of child marriage statistics in the country, Supreme Court Judge Justice AK Sikri said the prevention of child marriage was a secular law but was in conflict with Muslim Personal Law.

"Prevention of child marriage act is a secular law. But the Muslim personal law says once a girl attains puberty, she is ready for marriage. Nowadays, a girl attains puberty at the age of 11," the judge said, pointing that such situations arose in case of personal laws of other religions too.

Citing the overhaul of the rape laws after the national outrage over the brutal gang rape of a Delhi girl in December 2012 as one instance where society compelled parliament to enact a law, the judge said child marriage was one of those laws that had failed to deliver because of their non-acceptance by society.

Dowry was another. "In marriages, dowry is openly given. Though it is an offence, no one reports it," he said, releasing the report compiled by Young Lives, an NGO in collaboration with National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

Stuti Kacker who heads the commission said both boys and girls were still getting married in large numbers with a total of 12 million child marriages below the legal age. The largest proportion of child marriages in the country take place in Rajasthan, followed next by Andhra Pradesh.