Pressure groups to sensitise the people against the practice in the State

Sounding alarm over high rate of child brides in Andhra Pradesh, the fourth largest in the country, Asmita Resource Centre for Women, Hyderabad, has launched an exercise to build pressure groups in various areas to sensitise the people against child marriages and foil attempts to solemnise underage marriages. The first in the series of many workshops was being organised here to involve NGOs and local leadership such as self-help groups, rythu clubs, youth associations and panchayat raj institution representatives to take the lead for enforcement of Prohibition of Child Marriages Act, 2006.

The two-day workshop, which began on Tuesday with the partnership of local NGO Nature, attracted 70 participants from Prakasam, Guntur, Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, and Visakhapatnam. In 17 districts, Asmita Resource Centre for Women and Council for Social Development have undertaken a three-year research-cum-advocacy programme. It aims at investigating the causes for the low age at marriage among girls in AP and adopt a multi-pronged strategy to combat child marriage across socio-religious and economic groups in rural and urban areas.

According to National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-III, 47 per cent of women aged 20-24 years in India are married before the age of 18 years. While average age at marriage in India is 18.3, AP is below the national average. Early marriage is also linked to low levels of schooling for girls.

“With the fourth highest percentage of women getting married below 18 years, we have large number of underage marriages wide across the State,” Nagamma, programme coordinator for Asmita, told The Hindu.

Quoting NHFH survey, she said AP had high incidence of teenage pregnancy in girls in the age group of 15-19. She said the incidence was more among Muslims of Old City in Hyderabad, adivasis and Dalits and other marginalised sections. In rural areas, marriage among children was common as their parents send them for daily wage work for sustenance. Ms. Nagamma said the implementation of Prohibition of Child Marriage Act was very poor in various parts of the State and said they would involve at least 15 people in the pressure groups they were planning for each area.

Child Line

District Child Welfare Committee chairman S. Balaraju said through intervention of District Child Protection Units and Child Line (1098), they had foiled 150 child marriages – 72 in Vizianagaram, 66 in Srikakulam, and 12 in Visakhapatnam (up to May 2013).

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