Lost childhood: Karnataka saw 48.3% rise in child marriages

Also, the pandemic played a key role in keeping girls out of schools, putting them at a higher risk of being forced into child marriage and early motherhood. According to UNICEF data, the closure of 1.5 million schools due to the coronavirus pandemic and the resultant lockdowns impacted 247 million children enrolled in elementary and secondary schools in India. This huge number of children being out of school presents a significantly higher risk of them being vulnerable and getting forced into child marriage and early motherhood.

By Newsmeter Network  Published on  11 Sep 2022 3:29 AM GMT
Lost childhood: Karnataka saw 48.3% rise in child marriages

Hyderabad: According to the recently released National Crime Records Bureau 2021 report, Karnataka reported the highest number of cases, 273, under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA). Child Rights and Youth (CRY) compared NCRB-5 and NCRB-4 data which revealed that there has been a significant increase of 48.3% in reporting of child marriage cases compared to last year when the figure was 184.

Also, the pandemic played a key role in keeping girls out of schools, putting them at a higher risk of being forced into child marriage and early motherhood. According to UNICEF data, the closure of 1.5 million schools due to the coronavirus pandemic and the resultant lockdowns impacted 247 million children enrolled in elementary and secondary schools in India. This huge number of children being out of school presents a significantly higher risk of them being vulnerable and getting forced into child marriage and early motherhood.

Stressing on the impact of child marriage on girls and young women, John Roberts, the regional director–development support (south), CRY, said, "Child marriage continues to be a serious threat to the dignity of girl children in India. Marriage at an inappropriate age, before children are physically, mentally and emotionally developed for it, robs the children of their normal childhood and deprives them of their basic human rights, which they rightfully deserve and are entitled to. It also compels them to take on responsibilities meant to be taken by adults, maybe even leading a child to bear a child and take care of it and the family. Apart from this, the children remain illiterate, ignorant and unskilled, which in turn limits their opportunities for economic employment and economic independence as a grown adult."

Karnataka's Bagalkot saw highest child marriages

Data from one of CRY's operational area in Chikkodi taluka of Belgaum district shows that there were over 157 child marriages in 14 villages between 2020 and 2022 when schools were shut down due to the pandemic. All girl children dropped out of school in 2020 due to the pandemic lockdown and met with the disparaging end of losing their childhood.

In Belagavi, 44.2% of girls are getting married below the age of 18. Belagavi ranks third among districts with a high percentage of early girl child marriage after Bagalkot (47.5%) and Koppal (44.7%). According to the district-level household survey (DLHS-07-08) of Belagavi, 17% of women are getting pregnant during the age of 15-19.

"The persistent challenges that adolescent girls and young women face in the age group of 5-25 due to child marriage, teenage pregnancy, and the reducing participation in the female workforce are increasingly evident and this is a vicious circle. Lack of access to education, financial rights, and empowerment leads to enormous vulnerabilities," John further added.

The way forward

Education is deeply interlinked with child marriage and plays a key role in protecting girls from getting trapped in its vicious cycle. In order to enhance access to schools and quality education for children, CRY recommends measures to prevent child marriages which include increasing access to education by sanctioning new higher secondary schools at the panchayat level, enhancing accessibility for children, strengthening school infrastructure, and increasing budgetary allocation on education.

CRY said that in the post-Covid context, it is essential for governments to provide school bags, shoes, uniforms, and also cycles to children; ensure public transport services connecting all villages and towns so that schools become accessible; develop and implement child marriage prevention resolutions and review the status of child marriage situation across villages by panchayats on a quarterly basis; organise and facilitate quarterly community-level awareness programmes on prevention of child marriages; and create job opportunities for parents at the local level to address poverty.

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