Home India News Rise in child marriages expected in April

Rise in child marriages expected in April

By NNN-Bernama,

New Delhi : Come April, Indians will celebrate the auspicious Akshaya Tritiya festival — an appropriate astronomical day in the Hindu calendar to begin any new undertaking, from businesses to marriages.

But Indian children’s rights activists are not cheering the occasion. Instead, they are fretting over a non-eradicable social bane plaguing rural India — child marriages, the term itself provoking so much anxiety.

The “State of the World’s Children 2009” report of the United Nations Children’s Fund said 40 per cent of the world’s child marriages are in India. They are common in states of like Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Another Unicef report revealed that 82 per cent of girls in Rajasthan are married before they are 18 and 15 per cent of the girls across the country marry before they reach the age of 13.

“We can’t stop this tradition. Some castes in rural Rajasthan still practise this tradition. Parents want to ensure their girl child has a life partner when she grows up. Children between the ages of 14 and 17 are married off. This April we can see more marriages,” Nitu Sing, a social worker with the Bal Kalyana Samiti, a welfare organisation that works in about 200 rural villages in Rajasthan, told Bernama.

The Delhi-based National Commission for Women had already sounded the alarm bells last week, alerting authorities that child marriages are likely to be solemnised during the forthcoming Akshaya Tritiya. The commission said that there are nearly 13,000 child widows in Rajasthan and divorces are increasing due to the social evil.

“It is the most auspicious and prosperous day when farmers reap their harvest. And on this day, child marriages are conducted in many rural areas. It is a ritual marriage when the girls reach puberty, absolutely a symbolic ritual but it is also a festival day.

“Though the trend is decreasing now due to awareness campaigns and stricter laws, child marriages still take place. They have not died out,” Ramesh Thanvi, a Jaipur-based social worker said.

Indian authorities and children’s rights activists are unable to break this deep-rooted social practice despite stringent laws, such as the Child Marriage Restraint Act passed in 1929 that limits the legal age of marriage for girls at 19 and for boys as 21.

In April, on Akshaya Tritiya (Akshaya means that which does not diminish and Tritiya a good day), more wedding bells are likely to ring in rural India — silencing the children’s cries while their rights are smothered under thick traditions.