Mandya dist witnesses rise in child marriages

The rise in child marriages in 2016-17 has become a cause for concern in the district. In all, Mandya child helpline (1098) has received 119 calls this year, with Srirangapatna taluk topping the list.

The Childline 1098 is a toll free emergency phone service for children in need of aid and assistance, which works under the department of Women and Child Development, across the country.

The district-level management of the helpline has been handed over to non-government organisations (NGOs). NGOs Vikasana and Birds have been managing it in Mandya district. The helpline not only helps keep a tab on minor marriages but, also, receives complaints on atrocities against children, child labour and others. But the number of calls about child marriages are more than others, according to sources.

Out of 119 calls received in the year 2016-17, the officials were successful to prevent only 50% of the child marriages. The remaining are in the enquiry stage before the Child Welfare Committee court.

While Srirangapatna taluk topping the list with 28 child marriages, Mandya taluk has recorded 25 cases, while Maddur is in the last slot with eight cases.

Venkatesh of Birds said the rise in child marriages in the district is because of an increase in ‘love’ cases. "The parents, who learn about the love affair of their daughters search for a groom immediately and get them married off, even if they are minors. The parents do not take any steps to convince their wards and delay the marriage by a couple of years. Fear of the society and reputation of the family forces them to marry off their daughters in a hurry," he said.

Once a call is received, the helpline staff alert the taluk Child Development Office, Block Education Officer, District Child Protection officer and the Police department. Secrecy is maintained about the details of the informant. The team of officials conduct a raid on the place with police security, check the age of the bride and groom, and, if found that they are minors, the marriages are stopped immediately. If the wedding rituals are over, cases are lodged against those responsible.

Woman and Child Development department Deputy Director Diwakar said, most of the parents seek advise of lawyers and try to tamper the documents and twist the cases. Hence, we take pictures and also videograph the proceedings during the raid, he added.

Speaking to DH, advocate G Ramaiah said, as per the Child Marriage Protection Act, 2014, the accused are sentenced to a minimum of one year imprisonment and a maximum of six years imprisonment. Cases are also booked under the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, he said.

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