Child marriages still prevalent in Panipat, Karnal

Have stopped around 300 child marriages in Panipat and Karnal since joining in 2008, says women protection officer Rajni Gupta
As per official figures, around 420 complaints of child marriage were reported in state in 2020, and 32 FIRs were registered under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. (HT PHOTO)
As per official figures, around 420 complaints of child marriage were reported in state in 2020, and 32 FIRs were registered under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. (HT PHOTO)
Updated on Apr 21, 2021 12:52 AM IST
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By, Karnal

Eight years after her marriage, 21-year-old Seema (name changed) went to Karnal women police station with her six-year-old daughter to file a complaint of domestic violence against her husband.

She alleged that she was forced to marry a truck mechanic from Kaithal at the age of 13. In return, her sister-in-law got married to Seema’s maternal uncle in ‘Atta-Saata’ (exchange of girl for bride).

At the age of 15, Seema became mother of a girl and three years later, when she attained the marriageable age (18), she gave birth to her second child.

Now, Seema is caught in a peculiar situation. She wants divorce from her husband but her mother is against this because Seema’s husband took along his sister after Seema returned to her parents.

Women protection officer Rajni Gupta says Seema’s is one of the hundreds of cases that come to the office of district women and child protection officers every month.

“Child marriages are still prevalent. I have stopped around 300 child marriages in Panipat and Karnal since joining in 2008,” she said.

Maximum cases of child marriages come from backward communities and economically weaker families. Besides skewed sex ratio and concerns of safety of the girls, ‘Aata-Saata’, where a family gives away a daughter in exchange for a bride, is a major cause of child marriages.

As per official figures, around 420 complaints of child marriage were reported in state in 2020, and 32 FIRs were registered under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.

Under this law, all such persons, who perform, conduct, direct or abet child marriage can be sentenced to rigorous imprisonment up to two years and a fine of up to 1 lakh.

However, officials monitoring implementation of the Child Marriage Act said that they do not get information about child marriages as people hesitate to report such cases.

“In over 75% marriages stopped by timely intervention of officials, the victims themselves inform the police or protection officer about their marriage. In rest of the cases, neighbors inform the police,” officials said.

As per the State Crime Records Bureau data, 22 people, including four female, were arrested for violation of the Child Marriage Act in 2019.

Preeti Bhardwaj Dalal, officiating chairperson of Haryana Women Commission, says, “There is strict law against child marriages and people are aware of it, but they still flout it.”

“We have already discussed the issue and a special campaign will be launched in May to sensitise people about bad effects of child marriages,” she added.

FIGHTING THE EVIL SINCE 2008

Since her joining in 2008 as protection-cum-prohibition officer of Panipat district, Rajni Gupta helped around 400 minors by stopping their marriages. According to Rajni, she has stopped marriages of 256 minors in Panipat and 95% of them were girls.

In 210 cases reported from Panipat, Rajni says she got information before marriage and managed to stop the marriage on the wedding day, but in 46 cases, they came know about the marriage afterwards and later filed a police complaint.

“People call us celebration-spoilers as we reach the venue to stop the wedding of minors. Sometimes we even face the anger of parents and relatives of the minors. They pressurise us not to spoil the wedding but this is a violation of the law,” she said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Neeraj Mohan is a correspondent, covering Karnal, Kaithal, Kurukshetra, Panipat and Yamunanagar districts of Haryana.

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