by Juthika Baruah
Although it is said to be the 21st century, the century which is said to be equal for both male and female, child marriage which is against law is still prevalent in Assam with the numbers increasing from the previous years.
Child marriage has been witnessed as a 10 fold rise since 2015-16 which recorded with 32 cases while the number of cases has risen to 96 in 2016-17 and 317 in 2017-18.
According to data provided by the Social Welfare Department, 150 cases of child marriages have been registered in 2018-19 till March.
The prevalence of child marriage is more in districts like Barpeta, Cachar, Karbi Anglong, Lakhimpur etc. The official of the social welfare department said that in the above-mentioned districts, the people are mostly backward with no education and awareness is less in those areas. Although the department organizes awareness camps by distributing leaflets, pamphlets, advertisements in the media, hold workshops but still, the people are least bothered.
“One of the most important facts is that parents give birth to a child but they cannot afford them and therefore after they attained their puberty they decided to conduct the marriage of the girls. They don’t know the value of education and therefore they decided to give away their daughters in the hands of those people who could afford them and some even take the girls for sale outside the state and the country in lieu of money,” the officials said.
Moreover, Railway Childline caught over 370 married children from Guwahati Railway Station during the period of April 2018 to January 2019. Some among those who have been caught don’t even know what marriage is.
Meanwhile, UNICEF officials said that the problem is not new. It is prevailing since years but the main responsibility should be taken by the government to put an end to such problems. There are many instances that the cases of child marriages have not yet registered and this are done illegally.
In a recent incident on the 1st week of July, Childline rescued a girl from Lanka in Hojai district who was being forced to sit in marriage with a person who is 10 times older than her. The girl’s parents themselves forced her to sit in marriage in lieu of some amount of money.
Another incident was held from the same place earlier in July that a girl has been rescued by Childline who was forced to marry an elderly person.
Moreover, taking cognizance of rising cases of child marriages in Bongaigaon district, the district administration has taken a tough stand on the matter. The deputy commissioner of Bongaigaon has ordered the District Child Protection Officer to lodge FIR whenever such cases are reported in the district since child marriage is an offense and is prohibited under the Child Marriage Prohibition Act, 2006.