30 out of 33 child marriages stopped during lockdown

As many as 33 child marriages were reported in Madurai district from March 25 to August-end, during the COVID-19 pandemic-induced lockdown. Data obtained from the district administration. shows 30 child marriages were stopped by the officials and the first information report was filed in the remaining three cases.

Collector T.G.Vinay says officials from the Social Welfare Department, Childline, District Child Protection Office and the police department worked in tandem to stop the child marriages. Out of the 13 blocks in Madurai district, the highest number of child marriages were reported in Usilampatti. There were no child marriage cases reported in Chellampatti, Tirumangalam and T. Kallupatti during that period.

“There was no significant increase in child marriages reported in the district during the lockdown period, when compared to pre-COVID-19 times,” says Mr. Vinay.

However, the very prevalence of child marriage is a matter of concern and needs to be addressed immediately, opine women and child rights activists.

According to Jim Jessudos, Director of Childline, patriarchal mindset was the root cause for child marriages. “Parents consider their daughters to be a financial burden and so want to marry them off as early as possible,” he says.

The fear of inter-caste marriages is another major reason, says Managing Trustee of Justice Shivaraj V. Patil Foundation S. Selva Gomathi. “It is important for parents to sit down and talk to their daughters and try to understand their needs,” she says.

Poor family conditions and the anxiety over paying hefty dowry for the daughters also drive parents to marry off their daughters early, says Mr. Jessudos. “Apart from these factors, the uncertainty compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic drove parents to arrange marriage for their girl children. Also, the parents wanted to utilise the lockdown restrictions which called for conducting a simple wedding without many guests,” he says.

Child Welfare Committee member B. Pandiaraja says that in some instances the parents arranged marriage for their daughters with their family members, as they consider it to be a safety measure.

Empowerment of girls through education and sensitising the families on the adversities of child marriages are important to tackle this issue, says Mr. Jesudoss.

In families where there are more than one girl child, the government must support the girl children to complete their higher education, says Ms. Selva Gomathi.

The Collector says they are analysing the reasons for the occurrence of child marriages and the places where such cases are reported. “We are focussing on sensitising the parents on the ill-effects of child marriages. We also tell them that the health of girl children will be affected if they are married off at a young age. We have also issued 10,000 postcards for girl children, so that they can report to us about any distress they face,” he says.

Childline operates a helpline, ‘1098,’ for children in distress across the country.

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 12:25:05 AM |

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