ICDS foils 98 child marriages in Guntur dist

As per official data, the district ranks fourth in State for child marriages, accounting for 35.4% of total number of cases
Image used for representational purpose only.
Image used for representational purpose only.

GUNTUR: Child marriages continue to be a concerning issue in the erstwhile Guntur district. Despite efforts to raise awareness, many young girls are still forced into early marriages. According to the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), over 98 child marriages were prevented in the district in the last 18 months. As per the National Family and Health Survey-5, the numbers are alarming, with the district ranking fourth in the state for child marriages, accounting for 35.4% of cases.

In 2019, 23 underage marriages were stopped, and the numbers increased to 34 in 2020 and 37 in 2021. Since the reformation of districts in April 2022, Guntur district alone has prevented 48 underage marriages, with 32 cases in 2022 and 16 cases until October 2023. The Women and Child Welfare Department officials in Guntur have identified several reasons behind the prevalence of child marriages. Poor economic conditions, parents’ insecurity, school dropouts, and adherence to traditions contribute to this harmful practice.

Efforts to raise awareness and educate communities about the negative consequences of child marriages are essential. By empowering girls with education and creating economic opportunities, we can break the cycle of child marriages and give them a chance to thrive.Child marriages continue to be a pressing issue in Palnadu and Bapatla districts too. A total of 21 child marriages have been stopped in Palnadu, with 12 cases in 2022 and nine cases until October 2023. In Bapatla district, 29 child marriages have been prevented this year.

The reasons behind the increasing prevalence of child marriages are complex. Bapatla ICDS project director K Uma opined that many parents feel insecure about their daughters’ future and rush to marry them off to protect their family’s reputation. Additionally, factors such as alcoholism, broken families, and financial difficulties contribute to the eagerness to conduct underage marriages.

Citing a recent case, Uma informed that Manasvini (name changed), a 15-year-old girl who lives in a tribal village along with her parents in Bapatla, was forced to marry a boy of age 24. Locals said that her parents were unable to run the family of five and decided to marry off their girl to put-off burden. Timely alertness helped ICDS to foil her family’s bid.  

“In many cases, the bride was aged below 15 years. The focus is not only on stopping child marriages but also on prevention. Underage brides are immediately enrolled in government schools and colleges to ensure they can continue their education and build a brighter future for themselves. This proactive approach aims to break the cycle of child marriages and empower young girls,” K Uma added.

“Although awareness about the adverse effects of child marriage has increased, there is still work to be done. The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) is roping in government school teachers, anganwadi workers, ANMs, and Mahila Samrakshana Karyadarshis at the village and ward secretariat level to keep a vigilant eye on child marriages. At the same time, several awareness campaigns are also being conducted across the district, especially in rural areas to stop the menace. People can call 1098 or 100 to give information about child marriages,” she maintained.    

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The New Indian Express