Ministry of Woman and Child Development is planning to put sentries in place to check the unabated cases of child marriages in the country. In a freshly drafted ‘National Strategy on Prevention of Child Marriage,’ the Ministry has decided to appoint and train child marriage prohibition officers (CMPOs).
In the absence of marriage registration exact data on child marriages is unavailable, but according to the District Level Household and facility Survey (DLHS-3), 43 per cent of women aged 20 to 24 were married before 18. According to UNICEF estimates, there are 23 million child brides in the country. This is approximately 40 per cent of all child brides globally.
“It is an extremely worrisome situation. While the incidence of child marriage has declined by 11 per cent points over last 15 years, but it is less than one per cent a year decline shows an extremely slow pace of change. We need to act quickly to check the illegal practice, as it denies the children their basic right to health and education,” an official said.
The Ministry is working on ways to strengthen the implementation of laws against child marriages in States. “Alongside putting in place gatekeepers to in States to check child marriage, we will soon be writing to States which still do not have rules to check the practice. We will also give them a timeframe to have their rules and actions in place,” an official said.
“The State authorities should ensure that rules define the roles and responsibilities of CMPOs and local institutions such as panchayats. They should also be empowered with responsibilities to enforce laws,” he said.
The Ministry is also working on ways to link this prevention of child marriages with Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) structures and statutory bodies to ensure detection and referral of cases that require care and protection.
The MWCD Ministry also plans to raise awareness and capacity building at all levels including spreading awareness and information on other relevant legislations such as the Juvenile Justice Act and Dowry Prohibition Act.
Besides engaging the police to check illegal child marriages, the Ministry will also have workshops for lower judiciary on the Child Marriage Prevention Act.
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