41 child marriages stopped in Tamil Nadu in five days
The main trigger for the hasty weddings attempted mostly among girls in the age group of 14 to 16, officials said, is the fear of them falling in love or eloping.
VELLORE: In just the five days since the Tamil month of Aadi came to an end, officials in four North Arcot districts have stopped 41 child marriages. Marriages are considered inauspicious among Tamils during Aadi month, which ended on August 17.
The main trigger for the hasty weddings attempted mostly among girls in the age group of 14 to 16, officials said, is the fear of them falling in love or eloping. While officials stopped 14 child marriages in the Tiruvannamalai district, 12 child marriages were stopped in the Tirupattur district, 11 in Ranipet district and four in Vellore district.
Two of the 11 girls, whose marriages were thwarted in Ranipet, are pregnant. The 11 marriages were stopped in just three days—from August 19 to 21. A social welfare official from the district said none of the 11 marriages were instances of adolescent love; parents had pushed them into child marriage. Officials said the overriding parental fear about their children falling in love too makes them get their girls married off early, sometimes even to older men.
“Some parents take their children’s romantic relationships far too seriously, and instead of providing them guidance, arrange their marriage with significantly older individuals,” said Tiruvannamalai district social welfare officer Meenambigai. She said some parents also fix early marriage for their daughters if the children are poor in academics.
Another major factor behind child marriages in these districts is bonded labour. Officials said parents, who get indentured as bonded labourers, opt for child marriage as the girls cannot be left behind at relatives’ homes for extended periods of time.
‘Child marriages are linked to India’s skewed sex ratio’PUBLIC
Tiruvannamalai Childline officer Bhuvaneshwari said, “We received 21 reports related to child marriages in August. Many of these reports lacked complete details. However, we managed to track down and prevent most of the weddings. The remaining cases of child marriage are still under investigation.”
After the wedding has been averted, officials provide guidance and counselling to the girl and her parents and encourage the family to prioritise the child’s higher education. The child is returned to the family once they agree not to have her we’d before she turns 18, officials said. FIRs are rarely filed.
“If the child is prevented from studying education after the marriage, our government schools are open to admitting them,” said Ganesha Murthy, the Tiruvannamalai District Educational Officer.
Officials said they are able to track and stop the marriages due to coordination between the Childline, the police, social welfare personnel, and volunteers.
However, experts say point out that the issue is complex. “Child marriage is a global problem, and Tamil Nadu has a high rate of such marriages, accounting for 12.4% of cases. To prevent this, we need more than just laws – economic pressures, like dowries, play a role. This issue is linked to India’s skewed sex ratio. Local committees and better coordination within the child protection system are vital to tackling this problem,” said A Devaneyan, a child protection activist.
In four districts in TN
While Tiruvannamalai accounted for 14 child marriages, 12 weddings were stopped in Tirupattur, 11 in Ranipet and four in Vellore district. Most of the girls were between 14 and 16 years of age. Two of the victims in Ranipet are pregnant