Survivors of child marriage in Karnataka speak out on denied rights, struggles

These districts are said to be regional movement units and cover 10 more districts adjacent to them.
Image used for representational purposes only.
Image used for representational purposes only.

BENGALURU: The Covid-19 pandemic, which took a toll of Karnataka’s health infrastructure, led to some side-effects, chief among which was the rise in the number of child marriage.

As a generic approach is not enough to eradicate this social issue from its roots, a district-specific approach has been tailored for regions such as Bidar, Bagalkote, Belagavi, Chamarajanagar and Chikkaballapura. These districts are said to be regional movement units and cover 10 more districts adjacent to them.

The initiative, ‘Strengthening Voices; Advocacy Training for Movement Leaders’ by the Karnataka Forum Against Child Marriage brought forth survivors to share their personal stories and hardships to spread awareness about the problems faced by victims of child marriage.

One of the survivors, Priyanka Bodar, who is now part of Vidyaniketan NGO, represented the harsh realities faced by child brides as they were denied education and proper knowledge about their bodies. “I got married at the age of 16 and had four kids by the age of 20. I was denied education and rights to my body and freedom. Luckily, I was rescued by the NGO, which also provided me with education and self-confidence.”

Similarly, Sudha from Bagalkote also shed light on the lack of basic amenities like proper sanitation in schools, which affected young girls’ health and education. Nagmani from Chamarajanagar district spoke about how seeking dowry is an accepted practice, and the bride is expected to bring in a big amount.

“Initiatives like Mission Vatsalya safeguard vulnerable youth and lay emphasis on helplines such as 1098 and 112. They provide immediate support to individuals at risk,” said MR Ravi, director, Integrated Child Protection Scheme. “We are coming up with action plans for districts that have a high rate of child marriage. About 48% of calls to the 1098 emergency helpline are related to child marriage. Hence, we have to empower and strengthen the helpline.”

He also emphasized that teen mothers go through a lot of suffering, and added, “The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act is another issue that needs to be discussed with severity.”

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