Uttarakhand HC asks government to appoint officers to check child marriages in districts
The Uttarakhand high court has asked the state government to appoint child marriage prohibition officers in each district and enforce the provisions of Child Marriage Act 2006 in letter and spirit. The court also directed the government to give due publicity to the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006.
The directives were issued by Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Manoj Kumar Tiwari while disposing of a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Champa Upadhyay, Nainital-based social activist, in 2016. The order was issued on November 12, but the copy was made available on Thursday.
The high court said that according to the PIL, in 2009, Unicef reported that India alone contributes 40% of the world's child brides, adding that there were 23 million Indian girls who became victims of child marriage.
The PIL pointed out that according to the annual health survey 2012-13, 5.5 % of boys under 21 years and 1.8 % of girls under 18 years were married in Uttarakhand. “The average age of marriage in Uttarakhand is 26 years for men and 22.3 years for women. The prevalence of child marriage is significantly higher in rural areas,” the court said.
Child marriage has a wide range of consequences for both the children and the community, the court observed and said: “It perpetuates a cycle of gender inequality and poverty. Child marriage is detrimental to all victims, regardless of gender.”
The high court said young girls who become pregnant are at greater risk of complications. “According to the annual health survey 2012-13, 39% of young women in Uttarakhand aged 15 to 19 were bearing a child,” the order said.
According to the International Centre for Research on Women, female victims of child marriage are more likely to experience domestic violence. “Inadequate socialisation, discontinuation of education, great emotional and psychological trauma due to repeated pregnancies devastate these girls,” the order said.
The high court said according to the National Family Health Survey 2005-06 (NHFS-3), carried out in 26 states, 45% women of 20-24 years were married before 18 years. “The percentage was much higher in rural areas (58.5%) than in urban areas (27.9 %),” the order said.
“It is thus evident that the provisions of the Prevention of Child Marriage Act 2006 is not implemented in letter and spirit. Young girls are married at a very early age and are deprived of their rights to education,” the order said.
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