Crackdown on child marriages in India hailed by religious leaders

child marriages in India

Religious leaders, including Christians, have applauded the recent move by police in the north-eastern state of Assam, India, to curb child marriages.

More than 3,000 people, including Hindu and Muslim priests who officiated the child marriages in the state, were rounded up as part of the crackdown, which began on 3 February.

The initiative was launched after international agencies reported that millions of child marriages occur in India, which has the largest number of child brides in the world.

“We appreciate the step taken by the state government to eradicate child marriages,” said Bishop Albert Hemrom of Dibrugarh in Assam.

However, Hemrom expressed concern for the individuals being arrested, particularly women who will be lodged in overcrowded prisons lacking basic facilities like clean water and toilets.

He also called for greater care to be taken in the crackdown, as some adults being arrested were married when they were as young as five or six years old.

Crackdown welcomed

Father Rajesh Lakra of St Stephan Catholic Church in Rumalgaon has welcomed the crackdown.

“It’s a good step.

“We are creating awareness among our people in every way possible about the harmful practice of child marriages”.

Assam has one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in India, with reports by the National Family Health Survey indicating that 31% of marriages in the state are in the prohibited age group.

The state government has said that those who are married to girls below 14 years of age will be booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

The crackdown has not been without its critics, with some opposition parties labelling the arrests of teenage husbands and their family members as an “abuse of law” for political gain.

In addition, under India’s Muslim personal law, girls can get married once they attain puberty, although it is illegal for child marriages to occur.

Despite opposition to the crackdown, religious leaders have stressed the importance of continuing to fight against the social evil of child marriage. “We should collectively fight against this practice,” said Bishop Hemrom.


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