Karnataka forms panel to tackle early marriage

For the first time, the state government has formed a committee to address the issues of early (child) married children.

A recent order by the state government says the committee’s objective is to prepare a standard operating procedure to look into the status of early married girls and work towards their protection, rehabilitation and empowerment.

The committee members include representatives from the Health and Family Welfare Department, Home, Personnel and Administrative Reforms; deputy director, child marriage prohibition cell of the Department of Women and Child Welfare; programme manager, integrated child protection scheme of the Department of Women and Child Welfare. Jayna Kothari, Vasudeva Sharma, Raghavendra Bhat, Neena P Naik and Meena Jain represent civil society organisations in the committee.

DH had carried a report on the prevalence of child marriage with a focus on the plight of early married girls and recommendations from civil society representatives to prevent child marriages.
 

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Child rights activists and organisations working towards the prevention and prohibition of child marriage have welcomed the formation of the committee and acknowledged the impact of DH coverage.

“Although there is an Act prohibiting child marriages, it is not fully internalised and we are happy the government is open to discussing the status of married girls,” said committee member and child rights activist Vasudeva Sharma.

“We hope this committee would look into various cases of those girls who were married before completing 18 years, widows, deserted, school dropouts due to marriage, victims of domestic violence, death of below-18 girls during childbirth, certification of below-18 pregnant girls as above 18 to avoid legal complications, etc. and develop an interdepartmental coordination in realising the aims of The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 (with Karnataka Amendment 2016) to protect the rights of the children,” Sharma said.

According to the National Family Health Survey-4, one out of every six marriages in the state is child marriage. In a sample study in five districts of Karnataka, Initiative for Married Adolescent Girls’ Empowerment (IMAGE) project has identified over 3,000 below 18 married girls. Most of them have children and have discontinued their education and are dependents in their families.

Neena P Naik of Child Rights Trust said, “Early marriage exposes girls to higher health risks. Their children also suffer from malnutrition and other health problems. Instead of punishment and turning a blind eye, accepting the problem and working towards addressing it step by step will go a long way in putting an end to this evil.”

She also mentioned that this committee will lead to better coordination between the Department of Health and Family Welfare and the Department of Women and Child Welfare in addressing the issue.

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