The block development officer (BDO) of Belpahari successfully thwarted an attempt to marry off an underage girl in Dainmari village under Belpahari, West Midnapore, on Monday.
After receiving information, BDO Sarbadoy Saha personally went to Dainmari village and convinced the parents not to marry off their 13-year-old daughter so early. He also told them that marrying off such a young girl is a crime.
“My husband is a daily labourer and somehow he runs the family. We know nothing about the law and were not aware that marrying off my daughter at such an age would be considered a crime. If she wants to continue her studies, we will allow her to do so,” said the girl’s mother.
“Lack of awareness among rural people leads to such practices in remote villages. We will arrange awareness camps to teach people about the basic laws of the country,” the BDO added.
Swati Dutta, secretary of Suchetana, an NGO working in the area, said, “It is a good initiative taken by the BDO. We have also organised several campaigns against child marriages but the local people just don’t seem to understand.”
According to the organisation, in the last one year, 22 child marriages in Sankrail block, 12 in Keshiari, 17 in Gopiballavpur area and seven in Belpahari area were successfully thwarted.
“We were able to stop a few only because we got information beforehand. We are organising awareness campaigns on a regular basis. The situation is so bad that sometimes we have to face strong opposition from the families who are hell-bent on marrying off their daughter early and sometimes the girl herself refuses to walk out,” Dutta said.
There have been instances where girls have been sold off in the name of marriages.
“We have information that some underage girls were trafficked in the name of marriage. Some of them have been rescued,” a district official said.