BHUBANESWAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Thursday asked the State Governments to provide enabling environment for girls' education and create more employment opportunity for them which would help check drop-out and eradicate child marriage.
Expressing concern over the deep-rooted practice at the first two-day regional conference on child marriage here, NHRC member Sharad Chandra Sinha said more active Child Marriage Prohibition Officers needs to be appointed in the States as guided by the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.
"We must focus on the issues related to the empowerment of daughters, mothers and other stakeholders through education, capacity development, financial security, motivational campaigns and community actions. There is a need to draw a comprehensive strategy to deal with the child marriage," he said.
The current model of development, Sinha, who is former chief of National Investigation Agency (NIA), said proves that it is easy to evolve a top-down strategy of socio-cultural change, but difficult to implement it. Unless people perceive the problem as their own and regard it as social evil and a crime, child marriage will not be eradicated, he opined.
Though creation of an enabling social environment to resist the prevailing social forces is a challenging task, but a regular network of school children, teachers, mothers, community leaders and other social stake holders can challenge the legacy of child marriage, Sinha said.
Advising to take vigorous steps to create awareness and educate parents about the ill-effects of the social evil, the former IPS officer urged the States to approach villages and districts where child marriage is endemic.
Child marriage is a serious violation of human rights and one of the pressing concerns in protection of childhood security.
While South Asia has the highest numbers of children at risk accounting for more than half of global child marriages, the latest National Family Health Survey indicates at least 26.8 per cent women aged 20 to 24 were married before 18 in India.
Of six States under review at the regional conference, West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand are among seven States of the country having highest incidence of child marriages.
West Bengal has recorded the country's highest child marriages with 40.7 per cent, followed by Bihar 39.1 per cent, Jharkhand 38 per cent, Assam 32.7 per cent and Odisha and Chhattisgarh 21.3 per cent each.
Speaking on the occasion NHRC Secretary General Ambuj Sharma asked the State Governments to adopt zero tolerance to such a social concern.
He said a national action plan will be prepared post conference and States recommended to implement it strictly for eradication of child marriage.
Chief Secretary Aditya Prasad Padhi highlighted the steps taken and schemes launched by the Odisha Government to curb the practice which is prevalent in tribal dominated pockets.
Among others, Home Secretary Asit Tripathy, Women and Child Development Secretary Chithra Arumugam, Director General of South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children Rinchen Chophel and Indian Alliance for Child Rights (IACR) president Razia Ismail also spoke.