No whistleblower yet on child marriages in Ernakulam
A reward of ₹2,500 was announced for those reporting child marriage under the Ponvakku project
More than a year-and-a-half since the Woman and Child Development Department announced a cash reward for reporting child marriage, not a single claim has been made in Ernakulam district.
It was in March last year that the department announced a cash reward of ₹2,500 to whistleblowers reporting child marriage under the Ponvakku project. An email id was publicised to share information, and details of informers were to be kept confidential.
Based on the report, the department was to initiate an inquiry by child marriage prohibition officers. But not a single mail has been received till date.
That being the case, the department does not take it as a vindication of having eradicated the social evil completely but just that it may not be getting reported. However, instances of child marriage are relatively low in the district, it is being observed.
People in the neighbourhood who may be aware of child marriages in their locality may be reluctant to report them considering that they end up facing the ire of the families concerned. That was why a confidential system was evolved for reporting them.
“School teachers used to be the primary informers on any potential child marriage on account of their connection with the students. But that avenue was affected, as schools remain closed due to the pandemic,” said Premna Manoj Shankar, District Woman and Child Development Officer.
The pandemic also affected the effective publicising of the programme, which also hampered its impact. The Woman and Child Development Department had organised a novel programme on the International Day of the Girl Child earlier this month to alleviate this shortcoming.
“We staged Chakiyar Koothu performances in public spaces to create better awareness about the programme during the Girl Child Day,” said Ms. Shankar.
The department has also tied up with St. Teresa’s College, Ernakulam, to create short videos on the programme and circulate them on social media. Also, efforts are being made to take the programme through the department’s diverse networks.
District child protection sources said child marriages might still be taking place in tribal belts like Kuttampuzha where they are held as part of custom. “There have been instances where such marriages were stopped by our timely intervention. We are also conducting awareness programmes in tribal belts in coordination with the Scheduled Tribe Welfare Department,” they added.