Recent instances of child marriage have left the district machinery worried. From January to April this year, 13 cases of child marriage were reported in the district.
Besides this, in a couple of instances, government officers and NGOs working for the welfare of children succeeded in stopping the child marriage. According to statistics available with The Hindu, among the 13 minor girls who were forced to marry, six were aged below 16.
“In some cases, the parents arranged the marriage, while in others, it happened without the knowledge of the parents. By the time we received information [about the marriage], some of the girls were pregnant,” an official said.
All these cases amount to sexual abuse attracting provisions under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. The accused have been imprisoned, while the victims have been kept in government-run children’s homes.
A child helpline has been set up to receive complaints of child abuse. This system has helped officials in stopping a couple of child marriages. In one case, the girl’s uncle called up the helpline. “He called the helpline after all his efforts to stop the 16-year-old girl’s marriage with a 42-year-old failed. We reached the place in time and stopped the wedding,” an official said.
In some cases, the accused kidnapped the minor girls in the guise of a love affair and married them. Officials are finding such cases difficult to handle. “The girls are not ready to undergo a medical test to check if they have been abused. Medical test cannot be done without the girl’s consent. They want to go with their ‘husbands’, which we cannot allow,” the official said.
A massive awareness campaign in school and colleges against child marriage and child abuse is the need of the hour, according to social activists. B.N. Nandini, Additional Superintendent of Police, said cases of child marriage are highly disappointing. “Lack of awareness is one among the reasons. We have formed a Hasanamba Pade, involving women police staff, in the district to spread awareness to prevent child marriage and atrocities against women and children. The team will take up awareness programmes across the district,” she said.
V. Geetha, retired deputy director of Women and Child Development, said that parents also need to be educated on such matters. “Nowadays, many parents barely spend time with their children in their adolescence. If they devote time for their children, many such cases can be avoided.”
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