Kerala: Prove your age to get married at an auditorium

As child marriages are reported to be still rampant in Kerala, the Kerala government is initiating a slew of preventive measures beginning with action against marriage auditoriums that facilitate child marriages.

An instruction has been issued to all auditoriums to ensure that bride and groom of marriages taking place in the auditoriums are above the legal age for getting married. The auditorium authorities will have to insist on birth certificate or other valid documents to ensure that the bride attained the age of 18 and groom attained 21. Actions like cancellation of licence of the auditorium will be initiated in case of violation of the directive, said the directive issued by the Kerala Urban Affairs department.

A report published by the Kerala government's economic and statistics department earlier this year had revealed that 22,552 women in the 15-19 age group delivered in the state during 2017, of which 16,639 were in urban areas. This highlighted the prevalence of child marriages in Kerala. Though it was earlier considered to be rampant among the Muslim community and backward areas of north Kerala, a study published in 2018 found that the child marriages were increasing among Hindu and Christian communities in south Kerala districts also. A UNICEF report in 2014 also pointed out that child marriages were on a rise in Kerala.

The Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights recently came across many instances of child marriages taking place at marriage auditoriums in Palakkad district in central Kerala. Subsequently, the commission instructed the government to initiate steps to curb the practice.

According to the commission member Nazeer Chaliyam, since prosecution steps in instances of child marriages were not giving the desired results of curbing the practice, preventive measures are being initiated. He said that complaints of child marriages were now prevalent more from backward areas.

Meanwhile, a former member of the commission said that child marriages were even found among forward communities. Reasons include parents trying to finish their responsibilities at the earliest and concerns among parents over girl children ending up in undesirable affairs.

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