Spurt in child marriage in MP during lockdown

However, despite efforts by the Women and Child Development department, seven marriages could not be stopped. Cases were registered in these illegal weddings.
For representational purposes (Express Illustrations)
For representational purposes (Express Illustrations)

BHOPAL:  Lockdowns in successive years have led to a spurt in child marriage cases in Madhya Pradesh. In 2019-20, 196 underage marriages were stopped, according to data shared by the Madhya Pradesh State Commission for Protection of Child Rights. This has risen to 710 in 2020-21. It’s a jump of 262%.

However, despite efforts by the Women and Child Development department, seven marriages could not be stopped. Cases were registered in these illegal weddings. Also, cases were registered in 17 instances,  where child marriages had already taken place. Courts have so far nullified 13 of these.

According to State Commission for Protection of Child Rights member Brajesh Chouhan, these statistics show that efforts of the WCD department to stop child/underage marriages are bearing fruit. But he adds that it is alarming that these incidents have increased so much in 2020-21, particularly during the lockdowns.

“Though the WCD department is doing its best, more public awareness is needed, particularly among tribal and other communities, who have a tradition of child marriages. We will write to the WCD department son,” said Chouhan.

Statistics shared by prominent NGO, Child Rights and You (CRY), too points towards a similar trend in MP as well as UP. Data from project areas in eight districts in these states show that there has been a major jump compared to 2019. According to CRY, 87 cases were reported in four MP districts in 2020, which was 58.18% higher than the 55 reported in 2019.

“Amid the pandemic, a considerable rise in child marriages has been reported.  Predominant reasons are movement restrictions causing inability in reaching out to communities, thus, weakening the surveillance mechanism, lesser financial burden on families in organising marriages due to limited number of guests. Most importantly, no access to school led to increasing vulnerability of girls towards child marriage,” said CRY’s regional director Soha Moitra.

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