BELAGAVI: During every Akshay Tritya, child rights activists are on their toes to ensure that no child below the legitimate age gets married or are participants in mass marriages. This is the main season of mass marriages in many parts of Karnataka. Activists are calling for enhanced coordination between different agencies to stop the menace of child marriage.
As per the new trend, child marriages are being conducted in temples, hill-top temples and residences, to avoid being caught. Mass marriages are being avoided by those intending to conduct child marriages, in recent times. In the last two weeks, four child marriages were prevented in Belagavi, Kalaburagi and Bidar districts, while authorities failed stop a child marriage in Belagavi district, said reports.
The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) of 2015 showed 27 per cent of marriages in Karnataka involved children.
Child rights activists believe that child marriages are coming down in Karnataka, but more cases are being filed due to increased awareness among government officials on the issue.
Acting on the report of Justice Shivaraj Patil, submitted to the High Court in 2011, the Karnataka government appointed child marriage prohibition officers (CMPOs) in all the districts of the state. There are 47 designated CMPOs in Karnataka, despite which child marriages take place in a clandestine manner.
“The government order entitles most of the government officials involved at the grassroots level to become CMPOs. For instance the village accountant and headmaster of schools are also responsible to stop child marriage in their respective jurisdictions. It’s time that we fix accountability on government officials, and at the same time penalise them in case they fail to stop a child marriage in their districts. To begin with, review and monitoring mechanism must be strengthened at the grassroots level to fight against child marriages,” said a child rights activist from Belagavi.
“The families that support child marriages worsen the human development index, and the children who are pushed into labour and marriage suffer from its effects throughout their lives. As per the new POCSO Act, child marriages are sexual abuse, if one goes by the law,” the activist added.
Tough Act, poor enforcement
As per the Child Marriage Prohibition Act- 2006, everyone involved, associated or attending a child marriage must be jailed. The same applies to people who print marriage cards, band performing at the marriage, cooks, proprietor of marriage hall or temple authorities and priest.