Sustained awareness programmes along with timely warnings against child marriages initiated by the district administrations have paid off with more people coming forward to report such cases in Tiruchy and Perambalur districts.
Officials have thus managed to stop 53 child marriages which were about to take place in Tiruchy and Perambalur districts between January 1 and May 31 this year. Following reports of solemnisation of child marriages in the districts, especially in the rural pockets of the two districts, the authorities had arranged for a series of awareness programmes across the two districts.
Collectors of both districts issued strict warnings to owners of the wedding halls and instructed them to verify the date of birth of the brides and pass on information to the officials concerned. Similarly, in recent times, awareness against child marriages is the key point of discussin in all Gram Sabha meets. Besides, village panchayat presidents were also enlightened on the adverse results of child marriages and punishments for those favouring them.
Awareness against child marriages also gained momentum after the Child Line ‘1098’ was launched.
“On an average we receive, 50 calls per day which include alerts on child marriages. As soon as we receive information about child marriages, it will be passed on to the district social welfare officer, who will lead the rescue operation,” Child Line coordinator Albert Manoharan said. In 2011, the officials could stop as many as 36 marriages of children between the age group of 13 and 17 in Perambalur and Tiruchy. While two of them were from the age group of 13 and 14, nine of them were of 15 years of age.
Gradually, the awareness level increased in the subsequent year, and the number of rescued children between January and May 2012, was 53 in both Perambalur and Tiruchy. Among the 53 marriages stopped, 32 were in Perambalur district and 21 in Tiruchy.
“We have been creating awareness through schools. District Collector Jayashree Muralidharan has instructed all school teachers to educate children on the evils of child marriages. She has also promised to keep the names of the informers confidential. This has evoked a good response among school children. In most of the cases, school children were the informers,” said Tiruchy district social welfare officer K Yasothai.
Perambalur District Social Welfare Officer K Petchiammal said that the Collector, Dr Darez Ahamed, had instructed the officials to keep a watch for school dropouts and directed schools to inform the officials if any girl remained absent for more than three days.
The Collector had also established a village-level monitoring committees for the purpose. “They will verify the age of the brides and inform us, if any violation is found,” Petchiammal said.
“When a girl below 18 years get married, her physical, mental, emotional and psychological developments will be affected. It has become a custom in some parts of the State for parents to forcibly arrange for the marriage of a girl as soon as she attains puberty. This is absolutely wrong,” a Tiruchy-based gynaecologist said.