South India tops child marriage chart

New Delhi (DHNS) Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have earned the ignominy of topping the chart of child marriages in the country.

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The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report depicts a worse picture of south India as five states from the region — Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana — together account for almost half of the 280 cases of child marriage in the country. However, the data shows the biggest lacuna in enforcing Prohibition of Child Marriage Act. The 2014 figure does not provide the correct picture on child marriage scene in India.

The Women and Child Development Ministry itself acknowledged that recent data available shows 43 per cent of women aged between 20-24 were married before the age of 18. It also shows enforcement agencies are not working properly to address one of the biggest social evils. The ill effects of child marriage have been documented in government’s National Strategy Document on Prevention of Child Marriage, which says that it denies a child the basic right to good health, nutrition and education.

“Evidence shows that early marriage makes girls more vulnerable to violence, abuse and exploitation,” it had said. Tamil Nadu topped the list with 47 cases in which 47 children were the victims while Karnataka had 44 cases in which 45 children were victims. These incidents came despite both the states have impressive literacy rate of 75.60 per cent (Karnataka) and 80.33 per cent (Tamil Nadu). Kerala had 19 victims, Andhra Pradesh 16 and Telangana had 13.

West Bengal, which could boast of a string of social awakening movements including that of Raja Ram Mohan Roy who was against child marriages, reported 37 such cases last year. Gujarat (16 cases and 21 victims), Haryana (15 cases and 15 victims), Madhya Pradesh (14 cases and 14 victims) were other states where child marriages were reported.

In Delhi, there were two cases in 2014. None of the North-East states reported child marriages. Jammu and Kashmir, Goa and Uttarakhand are other states where no such case were reported.

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