Child marriages high in Kerala

The data made available to an RTI applicant has raised serious questions about the status of women in ‘God’s own country’. According to the data, 18,033 marriages were performed during 2001-2002, out of which 352 involved girls aged 13 and 14 years while 918 were those aged 14 to 15 years. In all, 2,450 marriages involved girls aged 15-16 years and 7,450 were in the age group of 16-17. The bulk of the marriages happened in 17-18 year age group that year – 15,282.

Similar figures have been recorded for 2002-2003 also when 18,033 child marriages took place. The information was given to Punarjani Charitable Trust, a forum of women lawyers based in Kozhikode. 

Advocate Sapna, representing the trust, said: “Despite the strong provisions of the Child Marriage Restraint Act, this social evil is quite common in our state. We are to file a writ petition,’’ she said.

However, in recent years there has been a downslide. During 2007-2009, Malappuram district recorded 5,829 child marriages. 

Interestingly, while bulk of the marriages involved Muslim girls, others have also not eschewed the social evil. For instance, in 2008, while 4,249 of the 4,955 brides in the child marriages were Muslims, 339 were Scheduled Castes, 55 were Scheduled Tribe  girls and 312 from other communities.

Filmmaker Aryadan Shoukath whose film Paadam Onnu Oru Vilaapam on the topic had received national acclaim, said: “Over 80 per cent of marriages happening in the Nilambur panchayat are child marriages.” The reasons were not complex to seek. “Boys marry early and use the dowry to either to fly to the Gulf for a job or start a business,’’ he pointed out.

Progressive Muslim thinker  Prof M N Karassery told Deccan Herald that the figures were stunning. “Right from the beginning, a section of Muslim were against fixing an age limit for marriage of girls saying that the religion did not permit such a condition. However, the Muslim community in the State was believed to have been on the path of self-realisation that early marriage for girls would affect their employment, social life and future ,’’ he said.

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