In a much-needed move, 88 gram panchayats in seven talukas of Yavatmal district, Vidarbha, have passed a resolution to ban child marriage in their villages.
The impact has been immediate, with 18 families cancelling the weddings of their minor daughters in the last month-and-a-half.
The district administration of the state government, in association with Unicef and local not-for-profits had launched a Child Rights and Child Protection movement in the district in September 2010. Under this, a campaign to end child marriage was started a few months ago.
Since then, 88 village panchayats have passed resolution, while 150 others planned to pass it on March 8, Women’s Day.
“The number of girls married off between at 15 or 16 is too high. In some communities, it is a common practice even when the girl is 13 or 14,” said a government officer attached to the child and welfare department. “Early marriage is detrimental to the child’s welfare, in addition to it a criminal offence under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.”
The officer said local communities such as Kolam, Naghjogi and Pardhi get their girls married as soon as they turn 13, but boys are rarely wed before they are of age. The legal age for marriage is 18 for girls and 21 for boys.
Milind Joshi, sarpanch of Tarnoli village, said his panchayat has decided to take action if the resolution was not followed, adding, “Violators will be booked under the provisions of the Act.”
Ravi Aade, a social worker in Darva taluka said “We have been working in the villages for more than two years to create a conducive environment. The 88 villages were chosen in the first phase as we got a positive response from them.”