The disturbing trend of reported increase in attempts to marry off underage girls by poor families in the rural areas — especially in the tribal habitations in Karepalli, one of the mandals hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic — has posed a major challenge to the government agencies involved in the curbing the menace of child marriages amid the trying pandemic times.
The timely intervention of the ICDS officials prevented nearly 10 child marriages in Karepalli mandal alone in the past two months. Two child marriages were foiled by the ICDS staff in Venkatiya Thanda and Mekala Thanda in the mandal in a single day on Sunday.
Sources said that a child marriage took place clandestinely in Dubba Thanda village limits on May 22. The ICDS officials served a show-cause notice on the field-level functionary of the village concerned for alleged dereliction of duty, sources added.
The menace of child marriage has returned to haunt the rural areas in the mandal due to multiple factors such as closure of schools, loss of livelihoods and various socio-economic impacts of the pandemic.
According to sources, some 20 child marriages were averted by the ICDS officials in association with the police and revenue staff in Karepalli, Enkoor and Kamepalli mandals under the Child Development Project office, Kamepalli, limits ever since the outbreak of the second wave of the pandemic.
The spurt in attempts of child marriages has prompted the government agencies and departments to ramp up efforts to curb the menace.
When contacted, Kamepalli Child Development Project Officer Dayamani said the prompt intervention by the ICDS staff helped in stopping around 20 child marriages in the three mandals since April this year.
“We have counselled both the families in each case against performing child marriages and obtained a written consent from them to this effect,” she said.
Action is being initiated against those responsible for a child marriage in Dubba Thanda on May 22 under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, the CDPO said, adding that a campaign involving the field-level staff and the sarpanches and other elected representatives of the gram panchayats will be organised soon to step up collective efforts to prevent child marriages.
The CDPO said pamphlets highlighting the penal provisions of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act and the devastating effects of child marriage will be widely circulated in the gram panchayats soon.