HYDERABAD: While most laws in the country are excellent but poorly enforced, the law against child marriage by itself is flawed, says Justice R. Ramasubramanian of the Hyderabad High Court. “The law states that child marriages are ‘voidable’ and not ‘void’ when discovered, which is what the Karnataka government is pushing for. However, the harmful consequence of the word ‘void’ is that the groom and the bride will receive no rehabilitation. M. Jagadeeshwar, the secretary of Women and child welfare department while speaking about the Preve-ntion of Child Marriages at a press conference in Telangana state commented that “boys are not victims of child marriage, so they do not need rescue.” This met with criticism from those who run residential schools who said that a boy also has rights and we need more rescue centres for male children as well.
“Rescue centres should not encourage alienation by separating boys and girls at a young age,” said the principal of a Hyderabad-based school. M. Jagadeeshwar further said, “The problem with curbing of child marriages, which happen in almost every district of Hyderabad, is the lack of rehabilitation centres. In most cases, the victims are handed back to their parents who take them to distant places and get them married elsewhere. All the child institutions in the state are bound by law to keep the victims with them or else they will lose their registration.”
Residential school autho-rities who attended the programme were asked to call the parents who got their children married during the assembly. The women and child welfare commission authorities said that the commission is planning to turn Sakhi centres into 24/7 rescue centres and will also scale up infrastructure in rehabilitation centres. Similarly, the number of departments involved in registering a complaint about a child marriage from the police to the welfare department will be merged to cut short the prolonged process and make it a single-window system.
Tripurana Venkataratnam, chairperson of the State Women's Commission also emphasised the lack of awareness among government officials such as district registrars and municipal commissioners. She also said, “Although it is a law to compulsorily register every marriage in the state, many district collectors are unaware that it is their duty to do so. Municipal commissioners also fail to verify these marriages.” Owing to these difficulties, a web portal is being designed by the commission where marriages can be registered online.
Shikha Goel, CID IGP, Telangana, said, “We will be red flagging the passports of all minor girls in districts that are ridden by child marriages. It is surprising the number of middle men involved in this racket. Over 25 women were involved in the racket of child brides being taken to Oman. To book these middle men, we are planning on geo tagging broker services.”
Shelter homes in Telangana not so rosy:
Hyderabad: Inaugurating a one-day seminar on human trafficking at Dr MCHRD Institute in the city on Saturday, Supreme Court Judge L. Nageswara Rao, criticised the conditions in rescue homes meant to shelter women who are victims of human trafficking. He said that when 32 women broke down the doors of a rescue home in Hyderabad in 2012 and ran away, it indicates what sort of conditions prevail in these homes. “The situation will improve only when the state government takes interest and creates a conducive atmosphere for the victims to live in the rescue home without fear,” Justice Rao pointed out.
He said victims of trafficking have rights, that a more humane attitude must be inculcated, and that laws in force for the protection of the victims must be amended to suit the current situation. Acting Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan of the Hyderabad High Court said that human trafficking, particularly of women and children, is high in both Telugu states; every year 1.2 million children are trafficked across the world. The government should thoroughly verify the antecedents and financial position of those running rescue homes before granting them licences, he said.