Child Marriages in Covid-19: An Urgent Issue

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CHILD marriage was criminalized with effect from July 1st, 1930 under Child marriage Restraint Act,(1929). According to the 2016 National Family Health Survey 27% of women aged 20-24 years were married before they turned 18.

The data over the years hasn’t shown much promise. In fact, from April to June alone, Childline India received 5584 calls reporting child marriage. Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, West Bengal, Andra Pradesh and Telangana are the top 5 states to have reported child marriages during these first three months .Karnataka alone accounts for nearly 29 percent of interventions for child marriage.

As is obvious with data, it doesn’t always represent the true number. With societal restraints and cultural hurdles, many such cases are likely going unreported. In fact, according to a UN report published in April, the covid-19 pandemic could lead to an extra 13 million child marriages. Other findings suggest that four million girls are at risk of child marriage in the next two years.

The surge in the number of marriages may have a close relationship with the fallouts of the pandemic. The economic implications of the lockdowns may have led to conditions which would have forced many to marry off their daughters at a young age to avoid further desperation. Many may have also opted for early marriages as the pandemic has sanctioned simple and cost efficient marriages without the family having to be answerable or being chided for simplicity.

Developing countries are also vulnerable to crimes against women and child marriages may be a reflection of these trends. Hence, it is the need of the hour to immediately address this issue. Working at the grassroots is important as is ensuring the safety of children married off at a young age. This evil is so grave that it requires immediate and urgent intervention to prevent violence against children especially the girl child.

Desperate times call for desperate measures has a flip side here. The pandemic has only made matters worse especially for women. Special attention must be paid to these issues which are often hidden or rationalized in the name of tradition and culture and might go unreported and unaddressed.

Nighat Ara

Student of IUST, Awantipora

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