When Institutions Fail: The Case of Underage Marriage in India

Michele Bratcher Goodwin


When do we know that the rule of law has failed or been corrupted? Who can we point to as corrupting legal order or the rule of law when most of the parties appear to be one-shotters? One shot players lack the ability to quickly master and more importantly conquer sophisticated legal labyrinths made less an enigma to repeat players-the legal elites. In India, the lines that divide the elite from the less sophisticated, or the one-shotters from the repeat players are as thick as the social customs that once divided its nation into castes. This Essay takes up the case of child marriage in India to demonstrate why the “haves” come out ahead in India’s marriage markets.