‘Kalyana Lakshmi, Shadi Mubarak viewed more as poverty alleviation schemes’

Have the Conditional Cash Transfer schemes introduced in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh with the objective of curbing child marriage and helping with marriage expenditure succeeded in addressing gender inequality or being viewed as mere poverty alleviation schemes?

The reasons for child marriage, a social problem, range from usual factors of poverty, illiteracy and age-old cultural norms to apprehensions about early sexual activity ( of adolescent girl in particular), elopement and marriage ‘outside the caste’. For some, early marriage is the resolution of the ‘problem of modernity and mobility’ of young women.

The School of Gender Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad, undertook a study led by Prof U. Vindhya and students Nilanjana Ray and Ujithra Ponhhia, in collaboration with government departments and non-government agencies, to explore the impact of the schemes Kalyana Lakshmi and Shadi Mubarak in Telangana and Chandranna Pelli Kanuka in Andhra Pradesh.

A report of the exploratory study — Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Schemes and Child Marriages in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana — was released during the recent convocation of TISS, Hyderabad campus.

Three districts

The study focused on three districts — Jogulamba Gadwal in Telangana and Krishna and Anantapur districts in Andhra Pradesh to explore if the CCTs have the potential to delay the age of marriage and, through it, address the discrimination and gender inequality inherent in the practice.

The CCT schemes became popular as cash is transferred to the accounts of beneficiaries only when the girl is married after attaining the legally valid age of 18 years. The features of the schemes in the two States encompass added benefits of legal protection of the marriage as well as ensuring education of girls.

The report, however, points out that it is too early to say whether the schemes have had the desired impact as the scheme in Telangana is only five years old and the one in AP a few months old. “ These schemes penetrated well into the communities. But the widely prevalent perception is that the scheme is for extending financial assistance to poor families to meet marriage expenditure rather than driving the message that child marriage should be viewed as a social problem,” the report says, based on its interaction with several families.

Interestingly, the promise of money apparently increased the value of women but there is also a negative fallout to it such as reinforcing dowry and marriage expenses being borne by the bride’s family. If early marriage of girls is considered a gender disempowering phenomenon, then provision of financial assistance by the State seems to be primarily addressing poverty alleviation, the report concludes.

The report recommended that both Kalyan Lakshmi and Shaadi Mubarak need to emphasise legal registration of marriage and not simply rely on certificates by religious community leaders.

In AP, the income criteria need to be strengthened so that the scheme does not contribute to an inflation of marriage budget for some. Tighter administrative control to curb corruption and elimination of political approval at any stage is needed to discourage culture of political patronage. Importantly, the schemes should be seen as part of initiatives to combat child marriage and thus linked to programmes meant for empowerment of girls through education and livelihood opportunities. This would motivate families to think of education and employment of their daughters, and not marriage, as priority.

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Printable version | Sep 16, 2020 3:12:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/kalyana-lakshmi-shadi-mubarak-viewed-more-as-poverty-alleviation-schemes/article27256009.ece

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