TAASIR :– S M HASSAN –11 OCT
11th October 2023, Wednesday: With lakhs of minor girls being married off every year, freeing India from the clutches of child marriage feels like a distant dream. UNICEF estimates that if child marriages in India continue as it has been in the last 10 years the overall child marriage rate in the country would reduce to 6% only by 2050. However, a new book that could be a game-changer has hit the stands, that provides a blueprint on bringing down child marriage in India to 5.5% by 2030 – the threshold beyond which the prevalence is expected to diminish organically with less reliance on targeted interventions.
The book, ‘When Children Have Children: Tipping Point To End Child Marriage’ authored by Bhuwan Ribhu, proposing a strategy and action plan to achieve the target, was unveiled on the International Day of the Girl Child in 31 districts of Bihar. Mr Ribhu, who is a noted child rights activist and one of the most prolific lawyers in India working for the protection of women and children, is the advisor to over 160 organizations which work for the safeguarding and protection of child rights in the country.
The book was released by child marriage survivors and dignitaries from law enforcement agencies and civil society organizations. Unveiling the book, the child marriage survivors shared their ordeal and physical as well as mental trauma they went through due to their early marriages. From physical assault to emotional abuse, from early pregnancies to the death of their new-borns, they talked about the many dangerous consequences of child marriage. While India has made strong progress by reducing child marriage by more than 50% since 2006 and the national average now stands at 23.3%, the situation still looks grim. ‘When Children Have Children’ is a key milestone in the Child Marriage Free India campaign being led by civil society organisations and women activists in more than 300 high-prevalence districts in the country with an aim to eliminate child marriage.
To achieve this, the book puts forth the PICKET strategy, which calls for the government, community, non-profits and girls vulnerable to child marriage work together on Policies, Investments, Convergence, Knowledge-building, Ecosystem where child marriage does not thrive, and Technology for monitoring and deterrence to combat child marriage.
“Both the civil society as well as the governments have been working aggressively towards the cause of child marriage free India. However, unless we have a strategic and convergent plan to combat this crime, attaining the tipping point of child marriage is a difficult endeavour. This book gives us the required strategic plan, a tangible structure and direction to the immense but scattered efforts of all the stakeholders,” Ravi Kant, Country Head, Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation, said.
The 160 organisations working in more than 300 districts across the country are gearing up for Child Marriage Free India day on 16th October 2023, when awareness programmes, pledges, street shows, candle-lit marches, workshops and many other activities will be held in thousands of villages to spread the message that child marriage must end. The day will mark the one-year anniversary of the campaign, during which thousands of child marriages have been stopped in their tracks, and millions of citizens have pledged to end child marriage in their own communities.
According to Census 2011 report, 51,57,863 girls in India and around 12.09 lakh children were married off before turning 18 in Bihar. This is a cause of grave concern and requires immediate action to protect young girls from the evil of child marriage. The National Family Health Survey-V (NFHS 2019-21) reports that nationally 23.3% women between the age group of 20-24 were married off before attaining the age of 18. While, Bihar reported 40.8% of women in the same age group were married before the age of 18.
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