Assam Government starts massive drive against child marriage
The Assam Government has issued strict instructions to the State Police to launch a massive drive against child marriage.
Action will be taken against the kazi, pujari, parents and everyone involved in solemnizing child marriages: CM
GUWAHATI: The Assam Government has issued strict instructions to the State Police to launch a massive drive against child marriage. The government's move comes after the National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5) in Assam showed an alarmingly high percentage of child marriage in the State – 31%. The high percentage of child marriage is also one of the major factors for the high rate of maternal mortality and infant mortality in the State.
Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, while talking to media persons today in Guwahati, said that as per the NFHS-5 data, child marriage was still prevalent in Assam. The prevalence of child marriage was especially high in 10 districts of the State. "Child marriage is seen not just in lower Assam districts but also in some districts of upper Assam. There are almost 1 lakh cases of child marriages in the State. The Assam Police have been directed to launch a massive drive across the State to gather information about such cases within 15 days and to take action as per law against all those who are involved in child marriage."
In India, the legal age of marriage for boys is 21 years and for girls, it is 18 years. Any marriage of people below this age is considered as a child marriage, which is illegal and an offence punishable under the law. Child marriage of people between 14-18 years of age is punishable under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 while child marriage of people less than 14 years of age is punishable under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012. The POCSO Act inscribes punishment for sexual offences with children under the age of 14 years.
Chief Minister Sarma further said, "Whoever marries a girl below 14 years of age will be punished under the POCSO Act.
"The government has also decided to entrust gaon panchayat secretaries the responsibility to act as Child Marriage Prohibition Officers. When they get information that a child has been solemnized, they will have to lodge an FIR immediately and if they come to know that such a marriage is likely to take place, it will be their responsibility to prevent it and to counsel the parents and people involved.
"Action will be taken against the kazi, pujari, parents and everyone involved in solemnizing child marriages. Affirmation and legal action will proceed simultaneously."
As per the NFHS-5 data, Dhubri district in Assam recorded 50 per cent child marriage in 2022-23 while the rate of teenage pregnancy was 22 per cent; South Salmara district recorded 44 per cent child marriage and 22 per cent teenage pregnancy; Darrang district recorded 42 per cent child marriage and 16 per cent teenage pregnancy; Bongaigaon district recorded 41 per cent child marriage and 15.4 per cent teenage pregnancy; Nagaon district recorded 42 per cent child marriage and 15 per cent teenage pregnancy while Barpeta district recorded 40 per cent child marriage and 14 per cent teenage pregnancy.
Even districts like Dima Hasao, Dibrugarh and Sivasagar recorded high rates of child marriage. While Dibrugarh recorded 23 per cent, Jorhat and Sivasagar districts recorded 24 per cent each while Dima Hasao district recorded 15 per cent.
The Chief Minister lamented that the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 had not been implemented properly in letter and spirit in the State so far. He further said, "The drive against child marriage is not targeted at any particular community. Child marriage is prevalent across the State and action will be taken against anyone who practices this social evil."
Also Read: 2 advocates of Hailakandi involved in child marriage detained