BHUBANESWAR: Aiming to make Odisha child marriage-free by 2030, the Women and Child Development (WCD) department has come out with guidelines for declaration of a village or urban area free of such marriages.
In a letter to all the district collectors and municipal commissioners, the department on Thursday said a village or ward can only be declared child marriage-free if no such marriage has been solemnised for a minimum period of two years. The place should have a child protection committee which meets every quarter and a mechanism in place to track child marriages by record keeping and checking the age proof of all marriages in the area.
The department has also mandated regular functioning of ADVIKA initiative and ensuring 60 per cent attendance of adolescents during Kishori Diwas which is held every Saturday for special sensitisation sessions. ADVIKA (Every girl is unique) is an initiative of the State government for development and empowerment of adolescent girls, aged between 10 and 19 years. It is being implemented through the anganwadi centres across the State.Till now, there were no standard guidelines or uniform procedures to declare a village or ward as child marriage-free.
The government has also laid down guidelines to be followed after a village or urban area is declared child marriage-free. It has asked village-level committees to meet regularly and take stock of all awareness activities. They will monitor families identified as vulnerable (likely to get their girls or boys married early) and sensitise religious heads in stopping child marriages.
To motivate people in stopping such marriages, informers will be awarded by the district administration. Currently, a few districts are providing financial benefit to informers. The State government plans to reduce child marriages for girls from 21.3 pc to 10 pc and from 11 pc to 6 pc for boys by 2024 and completely end early marriages in Odisha by 2030. For this purpose, all the districts are initiating measures laid down in the State Strategic Action Plan (2019-2024) which was rolled out in October, 2019. As many as 12,000 villages in the State have been declared child marriage-free till date.