Chennai: Despite increasing awareness on child marriages by stakeholders across the state, data accessed by DC from the Southern Regional Resource Centre, Childline India Foundation (CIF) reveal that about 2,807 child weddings were reported (prevented) during 2017-18 (from April to March), up from 940 child weddings during 2015-16. The shocking data is that Salem, Theni, Dindigul, Namakkal and Dharmapuri districts are among the top five districts that reported more child weddings in the last three years. Chennai reported 59 such weddings during 2017-18, up from 38 during 2015-16. “Of 2,807 child marriages reported during 2017-18, child welfare officials intervened in around 2,711, and 1989 weddings were stopped,” the data stated.
Speaking to DC, Anuradha Vidyasankar, head, Southern Regional Resource Centre, Childline India Foundation, pointed out, “Unlike in the past years, awareness on child marriage has been well disseminated and as a result, calls flood 1098 Childline helpline. As soon as we receive calls about child marriages, we immediately inform the concerned district level officials to visit the minor girls fixed for marriages and we stop the wedding, if the girl is found minor after thorough verification.” They were also continuously conducting programmes to prevent child marriages she added.
School friends and relatives turn whistle blowers to stop marriages
Childline officials say that they receive more calls nowadays from minors themselves to inform about their friends’ early marriage. “It is a clear indication how far awareness has reached out to students. For instance, we received a call from a student studying plus one, who said that her friend was under stress and was not speaking to anyone. When she insisted to know why, her friend spilled the beans and said that she was going to get married soon. The friend noticed a bill stuck on her school compound wall and called Childline helpline 1098 and informed the same,”said an official, CIF. The CIF alerted the school management and concerned officials to stop the marriage, the official noted.
How is Chennai in terms of child marriages?
Going by the data, Chennai reported 21 child marriages during 2015-16, 37 during 2016-17 and 59 marriages during 2017-18 respectively. Siva Jayakumar, former District Child Protection Officer (DCPO), Chennai and a child rights activist, explained that some time, parents themselves play the main role for child marriages. “As far as Chennai district is concerned, there is awareness among people and some parents take their minors to neighbouring districts like Kanchipuram and Tiruvallur for the wedding,” she pointed out.