Child marriages: Just a single complaint till now in district

Political interventions, lack of evidence hamper action

Out of nearly 250 child marriages prevented, from 2010 to 2013, there has been just one complaint lodged against parents, as prescribed by law.

The complaint was lodged in the year 2011-12, when a highest number of 199 child marriages were prevented. Out of 199 cases, 99 were in mass marriages, although the Women and Child Welfare department failed to prevent six marriages. Out of 100 private functions, one complaint was lodged as the parents were unwilling to stop the marriage. The case is presently before the court. This is the only complaint till date in the district, as per the records available with the Women and Child Welfare department.

That doesn’t mean that all parents of minor girls were convinced about their offence and agreed to follow the law. Intervention by politicians in the issue has rendered the officials helpless. Rather than aiding the Women and Child Welfare department officials with necessary support, the politicians act in a way to gratify their relatives and friends.

In the year 2012-13, 35 child marriages were prevented, based on complaints from individuals, anganawadi workers and school teachers. As many as nine marriages have been prevented by the Women and Child Welfare department in the year 2013 (from April till date). The department had also prevented five marriages in the year 2010-11.

An official, on condition of anonymity, said, elected representatives need to be made aware of the ills of the social evil of child marriage.

Awareness taken up

R Somalatha, District Child Protection Officer, told Deccan Herald that, even as awareness against child marriages has been taken up widely, lack of knowledge about the issues make parents to take certain steps in violation of the law.

Mentioning about the hurdles, she said, the department is informed about child marriages at last moment. “So we land at the functions after the knots are tied. In rural areas, villagers misguide the team to safeguard erring parents. There have been instances of the team camping at villages and near function halls overnight to keep vigil,” she said.

Many a times, parents plead innocence citing poverty and illiteracy. Even after the marriage, lack evidence fails us. There should be collective effort by officers — irrespective of departments — to prevent the social evil, she added.

She says, there have been family break-ups due to fights between families of bride and bridegrooms about the informer to the department. “The number of child marriages are more in minority and backward communities, apart from tribals.”
Complaints

K Padma, Women and Child Welfare Officer, said, complaints are lodged only when parents do not agree with us. Most of the times, parents stop marriages. Minor girls are brought to the District Girls’ Home and provided education or vocational training.
“Parents cite insecurity and family issues in semi-urban areas. Child marriages can be prevented completely, only when all members of society are aware of child rights,” she added.

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