The Ministry of Women and Child Development told the Lok Sabha that Tamil Nadu is on top spot with the highest number of child marriages cases. Under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, a total number of 326 cases were registered in 2016, increasing from 293 cases reported in 2015. Although TB claims to be progressive on many grounds, this menace still looms large as per the ministry.
As per the statistic showed by the ministry, at least 55 cases were reported from Tamil Nadu in 2016, followed by Karnataka (51), West Bengal (41) and Assam (23). Other states like Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya, J&K, Gujarat, Haryana, Telangana etc also reported multiple cases of child marriages. Minister of State Vijendra Kumar said to the Rajya Sabha that as per the National Family Health Survey, the percentage of women belonging to the age group of 20-24 years who were married off before the legally permissible age has reduced to 47.4% in 2005-06 to 26.8% in 2014-15. He also added, “Further, as per an analysis of Census 2011 data by NCPCR, ‘nil’ marriages were reported in the age group of 0-9 years for both boys and girls”.
In spite of extensive media campaigns and awareness program launched by the Government and the NGOs to talk on the issue and curb child marriage, some loopholes do exist for which the menace refuses to die down. The Government is now thinking that a vigorous campaign is required for a wider awareness highlighting the evil side of the practice.
Activists who are dealing with child marriage cases are of the view that there are many reasons for this. The first and foremost is the patriarchal mindset which still thinks girl child as a burden to the family. Added to it are issues like lack of education, poverty and destitution and the persistent low social status of the women which forces the family to marry their daughter off. They have also pointed out that lack of education, vigilance, and awareness is at the base of its problem.
Many activists have realized that a stringent law is necessary to curb the evil. They have put forward instances where the district administration has intervened to rescue the child bride, but no cases were booked against the perpetrators. They feel that the parents and relatives of these children should be given harsh punishment to set an example or else there will be no end to this nuisance. On the other hands, the issue of caste discrimination also plays an important part in accelerating this problem. “Parents are getting girl child married very early fearing that they would elope with other caste boys,” said one of the activists.
The ministry pointed out in the aftermath of child marriage. The bride develops ill health owing to the “increased fertility span resulting in early pregnancy, birth complications, delivery of low birth-weight babies, increased maternal and infant mortality rate.” Until and unless people are getting aware of this, no law or education can wipe out this hazard.