A major reason for child marriages in the estate areas is poverty.

The marriage of a minor girl in an estate area near Elappara in Idukki was thwarted on Thursday with the timely intervention of Childline.

This is the second such case after officials and the police prevented a similar attempt at Nedumkandam last Friday. After consultations with the parents of the minor girl there, it was agreed to postpone the marriage by two years when she reaches the age of 18.

Amal Abraham, Idukki district coordinator of Childline, told The Hindu on Thursday that child marriage was a major issue in the district and large number of cases were reported in the estate areas of Munnar, where many Tamils lived. Marriages take place in their native places after fixing the date herem and it is difficult to take action in such cases as it is known only after the couple reaches there five or six months after the marriage. Moreover, fake certificates are shown with regard to the age.

At Elappara, the parents of the girl told Childline officials that the main reason for the marriage was that the girl who lived in the estate lanes were unsafe when the parents were away at work. A major reason for child marriages in the estate areas was poverty. After preliminary education, the children are left with nooption but to join the parents at work on the estate or idle away their time. Since the plantations are far away from the main land with poor transportation facilities, the parents less prefer to send their wards outside for further education. Mr. Amal said that in a case of reported child marriage at Kumily recently, they had sought the details. In 10 child marriage cases this year, Childline officials have intervened.

In the case reported at Elappara, the marriage was fixed for Saturday. The parents had agreed to postpone it, Mr. Amal said adding that legal action would be taken if they proceeded with it.

He said after the recent incident of a torture of a five-year-old boy by his parents, the Childline was receiving a number of phone calls with regard to violence against children and issues of child marriage.

T.G. Gopalakrishnan, chairman, District Child Welfare Committee, said that lack of awareness on legal matters and traditional customs, especially among Adivasi people with Tamil roots, lead to large scale unreported child marriage cases. A major problem, he said, was lack of cooperation by local bodies and local leaders. He said as part of the ongoing project, awareness campaigns would be conducted through Anganwadi workers and non-governmental organisations against child marriage.

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