GUNTUR: The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) department officials have so far stopped 88 child marriages during the lockdown in the first and the second waves of Covid-19.
During the first wave, the officials stopped 64 child marriages and 24 in the last three months this year. ICDS project director Manoranjani said that due to the lockdown the child marriages increased especially in rural and tribal areas. Without knowing the ill effects of child marriage and without any knowledge of how they are risking their own child’s life, the parents are marrying off their underage daughters under social and financial pressure.
According to the fifth National Family Health Survey, 29.3 per cent of women in Andhra Pradesh in the age group between 20 to 24 now were married before they turned 18 years old. Out of which 21.7 per cent are in urban areas and 32.9 per cent are in rural areas. Of this 29.3 per cent, 12.6 per cent got pregnant between 15 to 19 years of age. Out of the total women population between 15 to 19 years in the State, 60.1 per cent are suffering anaemia. Due to anaemia and adolescent pregnancy, both the mother and child are facing health complications, including underweight infants, mothers becoming physically weak at an early age.
The ICDS project director also said that with the experience of the first wave, they became more vigilant during the second wave. “Our local teams gave counselling to the parents who were planning to conduct child marriages, so the number decreased a bit. During the counselling we identified the main reason for the increase in the number was the financial crisis due to the pandemic,” she said. Many of the parents feel insecure about their daughters’ future and think that if they do not marry their daughters now, they will not be able to do it later following their financial status, she added.
“On the other hand, as the schools are closed due to Covid-19, girls are remaining in the houses. So the little resolve of the parents to educate their daughters is falling with each passing day. Recently we stopped a marriage in Chilakaluripet, where the bride was just 13 years old and the groom was 24 years old,” she said and added though we gave counselling and explained about the adverse effects of child marriage, rules and punishments for child marriage, they agreed but later in that week, they tried to conduct the nuptials at the groom’s place. We stopped that too. We are conducting several awareness programs, including the ICDS staff and local anganwadis along with a mandal level official,” she added. She also appealed to the people to inform the officials if child marriages are taking place in their localities.
People can call 1098 or 100 to give information about child marriages, she said.