Odisha draws convergence plan to stop child marriages

The departments are Law, School and Mass Education, Higher Education, Skill Development and SC and ST Development.
For representational purposes (Express Illustrations)
For representational purposes (Express Illustrations)

BHUBANESWAR: As Odisha continues to witness a large number of child marriages, mostly in rural pockets, the State government has decided to rope in various departments to put an end to the social aberration. The departments are Law, School and Mass Education, Higher Education, Skill Development and SC and ST Development.The Women and Child Welfare (WCD) department on Wednesday wrote to secretaries of the departments seeking their intervention into prevention of such weddings, tracking vulnerable children and rehabilitating them under relevant schemes.

The SME department has been urged to enroll vulnerable adolescent girls (both rescued from child marriage and orphaned) into Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas and other residential schools. It has been suggested to introduce a chapter on child marriage, its consequences, and legal provisions of child marriage in Class 8 curriculum. Similarly, the SC and ST development department was requested to ensure continuation of education of tribal girls and engage with local tribal influencers and leaders for advocacy of community specific advisories against child marriages.

The State Strategy Action Plan envisages ending child marriage by 2030 and the department is making consistent efforts to achieve the target. As of today, 4,000 villages have been declared as child marriage free and 1,970 such weddings prevented this year so far.

The WCD department urged the Law department to issue an advisory to temples under its administrative control to mandatorily display notice boards on their campuses that would read ‘marriage before legal age is punishable and no child marriage is solemnised here’. Besides, the temple authorities have to verify age-related documents of both the girl and the boy to ensure that no child marriages take place in temples. Directions have also been issued to district Collectors to extend the initiative to other temples that are not under the Law department jurisdiction.

Director of the department Arvind Agarwal said that in the coming days, priests of all the temples and other religious institutions will be sensitised on prohibition of child marriages. “We have also urged the Skill Development department to reduce the minimum age for vocational training from 18 years to 16 years so that the out of school children, especially the girls, may get vocational training and are not forced to child marriage by the family”, he said.

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The New Indian Express