Two prospective child brides were rescued by officials who intervened at the nick of time to foil attempts to marry them off.
Acting on tip-offs, officials of the district child protection unit, department of social defence and child helpline on Wednesday saved two minor girls from being forced into marriage in Devakottai near here and at Tharaikudi in Ramanathapuram district.
In Devakottai, a 15-year-old schoolgirl was scheduled to marry her 26-year-old uncle, and in Tharaikudi, a 17-year-old-girl studying plus two in a local school was set to marry a 25-year-old farm worker, when officials stopped the weddings.
Mr N.Sivakumar, Probation officer, Department of Social Defence, Sivaganga, said the district child protection unit had received a call alerting it to the marriage of the 15-year-old girl at Ottanam near Kalayarkoil on Wednesday evening.
A team of officials, which included District Social Welfare Officer S.Revathy, went to the village but found the girl’s house locked. On learning that the marriage was scheduled to take place at Devipattinam on Thursday morning, the officials visited the marriage hall on Wednesday evening, as the family members were making preparations for a ritual.
Enquiries established that the girl, who had secured 416 out of 500 marks in Class X and was keen to pursue her studies, had agreed to the marriage as her father had passed away two years ago and her mother was ailing, Mr. Sivakumar said.
Following a round of counselling, the families of the bride and groom agreed to give an undertaking not to proceed with the wedding. Taking custody of the girl, the officials admitted her in a government home for girls in Sivaganga on Wednesday night, Mr Sivakumar said. On Thursday, the families were persuaded to allow the girl to continue her studies.
The girl was presented with the option of staying in a government hostel and attending the same school or, alternatively, moving to a government school in Sivaganga with government support.
The girl’s family has sought ten days’ time to arrive at a decision. Meanwhile, the girl has been allowed to live with her aunt, he added.
In the Tharaikudi case, child helpline ‘1098’ was informed on Wednesday evening about the marriage of the 17-year-old girl to her relative, a farm worker. Child Helpline Director Devaraj, Social Welfare extension officer Balammal and District Child Protection unit officer Mageswaran held talks with the two families on Wednesday evening and stopped the marriage, Mr S.Kanagaraj, Child Helpline counsellor said.