While many return to lockdown days with reasonable fondness by now, not everyone was lucky enough to learn the right lessons during that period.
Among several child abuse cases that came to light during the months of March and April, officials of the Women and Child Development Department confirm to have come across over 100 instances of child marriage in Mysuru district alone between mid-March and until July.
Statistics speak the truth
It's not just one district but the statistics of the entire country point towards a doomed situation. According to the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development, between March to June, 5,584 case of child marriage were received. The Women and Child Development department of the Government of Maharashtra has reported an increase of 78.3 percent in child marriage cases till September 2020.
Socio-economic effects of lockdown, pandemic etc
If over 5,000 cases of child marriage have made it to the authorities, one can only imagine how many might have gone unreported. The Covid-19 pandemic has escalated the economic crisis, thereby also gradually spiking the associated social evils. Poverty, lack of opportunities and girls dropping out of school have all contributed to the steep and worrying rise in the trend of child marriages.
Child rights activists and officials of the concerned government departments put the maximum onus on the fear of girls eloping. The parents, especially in backward areas of the country and villages, fear that their young adolescent girls might run away and marry out of caste or marry men of their choice. Therefore girls, on attaining puberty, and especially those between the ages of 14 to 17 are hurriedly married off. The fact that many girls dropped out of school during this time, has further augmented the problem.
Laws haven't helped
The child marriage act was passed in India in 1930. It's an unfortunate situation that even after so many years the law is much required and not redundant. According to The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, whoever performs, conducts, or directs any child marriage shall be punishable with simple imprisonment which may extend to three months and shall also be liable to fine.
The authorities have intervened whenever the families could be traced and rescued girls. However, recently some residents of Yanamalla village vandalised the Vedurukuppam police station in Chittoor district in Andhra Pradesh on Saturday. Why? The mob was protesting to demand action against the sub-inspector for his alleged 'high handed behaviour' against some locals for performing a child marriage earlier in the week. The protestors broke public property and even shattered the window panes of the police station. Pandemic has brought the child marriage and child abuse situation to square one and it'll take tackling in ways more than one.