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411 child marriages prevented in Odisha

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Most involved minor girls, said State government, which has an action plan to end child marriage by 2030

Timely intervention by authorities and social activists have prevented 411 child marriages involving mostly minor girls in Odisha last year, said the State government here on Thursday.

In Odisha, the risk of a girl marrying before her 18th birthday has dropped. The prevalence of child marriages among girls in the State was reported to be 21.3%, against the national average of 26.8%, whereas for boys it is only 11% against the national average of 20.3%.

The State government on Thursday released a report on the status of child marriages and a strategic action plan to end child marriage.

Decline recorded

Odisha has witnessed a decline of nearly 16 and 11 percentage points between the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2005-06 and NFHS 2015-16 for girls and boys marrying before their legal permissible ages of 18 and 21, respectively.

Odisha is ranked 15 in India for reported child marriages. Neighbouring States like West Bengal and Jharkhand are ahead of Odisha in this ranking.

In Mayurbhhanj district, 75 minor girls were rescued just before their weddings were to be solemnised, while the marriages of 62 girls were stopped in southern Malkangiri district.

“It is a matter of concern that Khurda, which is a developed district and has a high literacy rate, has recorded 18% child marriages. In Malkangiri, the percentage is very high at 39%,” said Deepa Prasad, State Programme Coordinator of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). There is no district where there is no child marriage.

Caused by poverty

Poverty was one of the main reasons cited in the western Odisha districts for families to opt for child marriage. Incidences of girls married in childhood are high in poor households. The high cost of marriage, dowry, tribal customs, and migration, are other factors that contribute to girls being forced to marry.

The action plan envisages ending child marriage by 2030. The State intends to bring down incidence of child marriage among girls from 21.3% to 10%, and among boys from 11% to 6%, by 2024.

Child marriages often lead to early motherhood and subsequently, health complications crop up. In Mayurbhanj, adolescence pregnancy was found to be as high as 16%.

‘Actual number high’

“The 16% appears to be a small number. When it comes to actual number, the number is very high. Close to 1.4 lakh adolescent girls get pregnant before the age of 19 in Mayurbhanj,” Dr. Prasad said. In Kalahandi, 48 maternal deaths were reported. Among the deceased, 12 mothers were below 18 and 19 years of age.

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Printable version | Dec 16, 2019 5:26:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/411-child-marriages-prevented-in-odisha/article29790333.ece

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