COIMBATORE: Crime against children, especially child marriages have increased during the lockdown in the district. Police said that during the lockdown, though the overall rate of crime had gone down, incidents of minor abduction and child marriages have risen.
According to figures released the district child protection unit’, 50 child marriage cases under POCSO Act have been filed across the district in the last six months. It was 134 in 2020 during the first wave and it stood 90 in 2019. Officials said that the ratio has increased in the last two years after the children started to stay in houses due to the pandemic.
"When the schools were open, children talk to their friends or teachers if they face any abuses. However, there was no such option during the lockdown," said an officer, adding that most of the children were victimised by their known persons.
"As per our study, 95 per cent of the minors faced assaults by the known circle and most of the child marriages happened followed by the elopements. Lockdown has paved a way to the rise of such crimes,” the official pointed out
‘62 complaints in 6 months’
Meanwhile, the District Social Welfare Department also witnessed a significant increase in child marriage cases during the pandemic induced lockdown.
Explaining the increase in cases, an official, seeking anonymity, said, "In 2019, the department received 91 complaints through the Childline (1098) and all marriages were stopped due to their timely intervention. As many as 92 cases were reported in 2020 and three of them were booked as they had completed the marriages. The remaining 89 child marriages were restrained by the officials. However, in the current year, we have received 62 complaints in the last six months. We were able to stop only 41 child marriages on time. The rest 21 cases would be investigated under provisions of the Prevention of the Child Marriage Act and the POCSO Act.”
Also, the child protection unit has modified the awareness campaigns by focusing on the male adults to make them aware of punishments if they engaged in crimes against children.
"We cannot prevent crimes by educating children and parents. We must also educate male adults. We have placed electronic display boards in public places and are holding campaigns through social media detailing the punishments for crimes against children,” the official added.