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Haryana sees rise in child marriage cases

Gautam Dheer, Chandigarh, June 19, 2015, DHNS: 23:15 IST
Since January at least 35 cases of child marriage have been reported in Sirsa district alone. An unprecedented spurt in child marriages has come to light in June. In the last fortnight, at least 12  cases have been reported.
The rising number of child marriage cases in the recent past in Haryana, which is already troubled by skewed gender ratio, has raised serious concerns over rights of children in the state.

Many of such cases that have come to light are from areas adjoining the neighbouring Rajasthan, where child marriage is practiced with impunity, sources said. In Haryana, the malpractice is rampant in several villages of Sirsa district. Minor girls and minor boys are being forced into marriage, official data shows.

From January, in less than six months, at least 35 cases of child marriage have been reported in Sirsa district alone. An unprecedented spurt in child marriages has come to light in June. In the last fortnight, at least 12 such cases have been reported in the vicinity of Sirsa in the district.

Sources said the numbers could be far more given that many such incidents remain under the wraps, essentially because of the “sanctity” this practice has acquired among families and the society at large in such regions, experts opine. The ones coming to light are on the basis of tip offs that the authorities concerned get. There have been many reports of prohibition officers in Haryana acting swiftly to intervene and rescue minor girls and boys from marriage.

Under the provisions of the act, marrying a minor child or even facilitating their marriage invites imprisonment of two years and a fine of Rs 1 lakh. The rising trend of child marriage this year in the state could surpass previous records. This year, so far, has witnessed the highest average of cases of child marriage in the last five years.
Among other social initiatives, Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda, a philanthropic sect espousing an egalitarian philosophy, has also been working towards spreading awareness against child marriage.

The numbers touched a high of 51 in Sirsa alone in the year 2013. Ever since 2011, Sirsa, which is neighbouring Rajasthan, has witnessed more than 200 cases of child marriage.

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