Several girls are staying with grandparents and forced to enter into wedlock as their parents migrate to the Gulf.

A case of child marriage reported at Chinnamamidipalli baffles the official agencies enforcing the Prevention of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) in the coastal villages inhabited by fishermen in Narsapur and Mogalturu mandals of West Godavari district.

According to Dasari Srilakshmi, the mandal-level Child Development Project Officer (CDPO) of the Women and Child Welfare department, who unfolded her typical experience at a meeting of anganwadi workers here on Monday, a minor girl from the village under Mogatluru mandal recently raised an alarm by approaching the Childline at Eluru with a request to stop her marriage.

Inquiries by the personnel of the Women and Child Welfare department and the police revealed that the elders from the family had decided to marry her as part of fulfilling the wish of her sick mother.

The marriage was stopped following the intervention of the official agencies. And, the poor parents are worried over the chances of recovering money paid as dowry from the groom’s parents with the cancellation of the marriage. Surprisingly, the officials came to know belatedly that it was a trick played by the girl, a Class VIII dropout, to legitimise her love affair with a youth from Srikakulam district by getting cancelled the marriage fixed by the elders by activating the agencies implementing the Child Marriage Act.

Ms. Srilakshmi said the teen-aged girls from the fishermen habitations were walking into the trap of love affairs and subjected to cheating. The lack of proper parenting, poor awareness and the mobile phone were found to be the misguiding forces. Most of the girls were staying with their grandparents as their parents migrated to Gulf countries to do the menial jobs. Consequently, the girls were either forced to enter the wedlock at a tender age, making mockery of the anti-child marriage laws, or end up subjecting themselves to love failures, she explained.

Family custom

In all the fishermen villages along the coast in the district, there is a family custom which prevents girls from pursuing higher education after Class X. It finally acts as a major push factor for the increase of child marriages in the fishermen community, according to Ms. Lakshmi.

Manohari Velamati, programme coordinator of the Foundation for Democratic Rights and D. Venkateswara Rao, Director of the Gandhian Study Centre, Sri Y.N. College, Narsapur, expressed serious concern over poor implementation of the gender laws leading to a spurt in the incidence of domestic violence in the fishermen habitations.