In the wake of a recent surge in child marriages in the district, the District Social Welfare Office has stepped up measures to check further attempts of marrying off minor girls.

The office has solicited a report on preventive measures taken by local authorities entrusted with implementing a circular issued by the Collector directing marriage halls to verify age of the bride as above 18 before wedding nuptials are performed.

The move has been initiated subsequent to a recent child marriage attempt in a wedding hall in Thuraiyur where the proprietor pleaded ignorance of the circular, District Social Welfare Officer Yashoda told The Hindu .

The move is expected to expedite action by panchayat unions, block development offices, municipal offices and the corporation that have been asked to respond within a fortnight on follow up measures initiated on receiving the circular. These bodies are entrusted with issuing of licences for marriage halls. Temples, churches and mosques would also be sensitising on the issue. Birth certificate, statement of marks or Transfer Certificate of the girl ccould be producred as proof of verification, she said.

Since 2012, the drive against child marriage has intensified with complaints being filed on direction from Collector Jayashree Muralidharan against bridegroom and parents of both bride and groom in three foiled attempts this year. Previously, no legal proceedings were initiated and parents were required only to give a written consent that they would not proceed with the marriage. This has been brought about by the fact that number of child marriages in the jurisdiction under Child Welfare Committee, Tiruchi, has tripled in the last six- month period, though this has been attributed to increased sensitisation of child helpline, ‘1098,' says Jayanthee Rani, member, child welfare committee.

The number of marriages till July 2011 was only12 under the committee's purview that extends to Karur, Ariyalur and Perambalur. The drive against child marriage had helped around 50 girls, forced to discontinue studies, to pursue higher education, said Ms. Rani