India has come long way from the days of harmful social practises,(Such as ‘Sati’, where the woman have to immolate herself on her husbands death) but is not free from other social evil yet, there are persistent issues of caste and child marriage etc.
A 2015-2016 UNICEF report estimated that India's child marriage rate is 27%. The system of Child Marriage was outlawed in colonial India, in 1929. That time, the legal minimum age of marriage was set at 14 for girls and 18 for boys by the British. After India's independence in 1947, the act underwent two revisions. The minimum legal age for marriage was increased to 15 for girls in 1949, and to 18 for females and 21 for males in 1978. Recently, in 2021, the Union Cabinet approved a bill in Parliament to raise the age of girls for marriage to 21 years.
The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act of 2006 defines "child marriage" as a marriage, or a marriage about to be solemnised, to which either of the contracting parties is a child; and child for purposes of marriage is defined based on gender of the person – if a male, it is 21 years of age, and if a female, 18 years of age.
Here in this video, a girl who’s born in 2009 is about to get married. One ASHA worker mentioned this incident to the Community Correspondent Krishna Mondal and she along with the Police, School Teachers, allied NGOs of the area could prevent the marriage, in the nick of time.
That young girl was taken to her Aunt's place to get her married, hurriedly and in hiding. The parents know that Child Marriage is detrimental to the Child’s health, but their penury is making them keep stones in their heart.
The rescue team coaxed and got the phone number of her aunt from the mother. And just before one day of the marriage, they could take the Child back home to their parents, after counselling.
West Bengal Government has set up various schemes such as Ruposree, Konyashree, Lakkhi Bhandar etc to curb this menace of child marriage, with providing scholarships and other livelihood options for adolescent girls. The NGO workers are advocating awareness campaigns and a shift in collective thoughts regarding these child marriages. In that area of South 24 Parganas district, near Sundarbans, the rate of child marriages are increasing after the pandemic. In Kultoli block of South 24 Paraganas, last year, the number of teenage pregnancy was 712, this is an alarmingly large number.
The rescue team mentioned that last year, they could prevent more than 100 child marriages, in joint operation with other NGO’s, Block Officials, ASHA workers, Police and active citizens such as Community Correspondent Krishna Mondal. Javier Aguilar, UNICEF’s chief of child protection, stated that India accounts for the highest number of child marriages in South Asia, given its size and population.
We need to consciously make an effort to stop these Child Marriages. Please share this video, so that more people can understand and be aware of the calamity that we are carrying.
Avijit Adhikary is a journalist with nearly 8000 days of field experience till date. In the past two decades, he has witnessed the ebb and flow of the media industry in India, with ripples felt in his region too. This includes the rise of digital media, the decline of print...