Bengaluru: The Karnataka Child Rights Commission has said that the leading cause of child marriages in the state in 2016 was toilet. There is no clear data on how many child marriages happen every year but the Child Rights Commission says there are at least two to three weddings that are prevented every month.
To stop this social menace, the commission is launching a state-wide campaign from Saturday to take up awareness programmes at gram panchayat levels. The commission expects its efforts will not only dissuade parents who are thinking of getting their children married, but also to revive village-level vigilant teams to keep an eye and alert the police of secret marriage plans.
The campaign is being launched ahead of the ‘marriage season’ that begins now as the inauspicious ‘dhanur masa’ ended with Sankranti.
Karnataka still ranks among the top ten states that are home to child marriages with the north Karnataka districts of Yadgir, Bagalkote, Kalburgi, Bellary and Belagavi all registering cases of child marriages. In most cases, extreme poverty forces families to get their girls married early. Often, with both parents working as labourers, they fear for the safety of pubescent who are left at home for long hours.
The prevalence of men of the Gujjar and a few other communities coming down south to find brides in the wake of a dwindling sex ratio in their own towns has also increased, commission chairperson Kripa Alva told the media at an interaction. “They hold something called ‘yaadi-mein-shaadi’ where they choose girls from poor families and wed them in the middle of the night by paying ten or twenty thousand. They take these girls back and the family is usually relieved as it is one ‘burden’ less for them,” said Alva.
Though there are ten departments – including the women and child welfare department, education, rural development, home and labour departments — who are supposed to have nodal officers in every district to prevent child marriages, this effort hasn’t been able to root out the system of child entirely, she said.
“They know, yet they don’t know. They turn a blind eye, sometimes saying this comes under the women and child welfare department, not theirs. But every one of us has a responsibility to prevent such marriages, even if a person is aware of a wedding being planned by his neighbour, he must alert the officials,” said Alva.
The commission will also be launching a website ‘Kare’ that will ensure confidentiality and anonymity of complainants, while tipping off district and taluk level officers of child marriages that are likely in their jurisdiction.