As per a report by journalist Kamlesh Sutar of India Today Group, child marriages in Maharashtra have registered a sharp rise in recent times, as families battle the economic woes caused by the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
As per the report, several minor girls in the Beed district of Maharashtra, have been married off by their families in the throes of financial hardships, long before they attain the age of 18, the legitimate age for marriage for girls.
The lockdown, which has paralysed the economy and disproportionately affected the people belonging to the lower strata of the society, is reportedly the cause behind impoverished families choosing to stealthily marry off their daughters prematurely and thereby partially reduce the number of children to support and a chance to make the affair less expensive and hidden.
One of the minor girls interviewed by the journalist in the above video says that she was lucky to have completed her metric before being married off. Others less fortunate than her were being married off after they had completed their 8th and 9th standard. The rampant child marriages allegedly continued right under the nose of the administration, with no intervention from the authorities to stop the abominable practice.
District administration unaware of the child marriages happening under their jurisdiction
The report further states that after the issue of child marriages came to the fore, the administration sprang into action, stopping the marriage of one Divya(name changed). Divya’s father claims that the pressure of making ends meet is so high that he could hardly provide food for his family, let alone fund Divya’s higher education.
The story is similar across the district, claims Divya, who says that girls are married off right after their primary education gets over, even if that means marrying them off before attaining the legal age of marriage.
The reemergence of a social evil such as child marriage, that had taken several decades and conscious efforts by successive state governments to eradicate, bodes ill for the state already buckling the under the strain of coronavirus outbreak. Even as the state authorities are buckling down to the task of taming the coronavirus, they should also pay heed to the social aspects of the fallout from the coronavirus.
More than 200 cases of child marriages reported in Maharashtra from March to June 2020
The phenomenon of rise in child marriages is not unique to any single district alone. The scourge of child marriage is pervasive across the Maharashtra, from Kolhapur to Osmanabad, Latur to Sangli and several other districts of Marathwada.
Last week, a report in Times of India has stated that the Childline, the nodal agency for children in distress had made over 5500 intervention between May and July related to the issues of child marriage.
According to child rights activist Santosh Shinde, also a former member of Maharashtra’s State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, more than 200 cases of child marriage have been reported between March and June. While many cases of the child marriages have been prevented with the help of vigilant locals and child rights activist, there might be several cases across the length and breadth of the state which may have carried out stealthily, beating the watchful eyes of conscious locals and activists.