‘Rise in foeticide, unwed mothers: Odisha child rights panel opposes marriage age law
Odisha child rights panel, or OSCPCR, said since juvenile justice laws only provide for supporting vulnerable children up to the age of 18, there will be no space to support vulnerable child bride older than 18 years after being rescued from a child marriage
BHUBANESWAR: Odisha State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (OSCPCR) has opposed the proposed law to raise the marriage age for women to 21, saying it will create a new set of problems such as an increase in instances of foeticide and unwed mothers. The commission chairperson also said it will leave people rescued from child marriages in the 19-21 age group in the lurch as existing laws only support vulnerable children up to the age of 18 years.
“Acts like Juvenile Justice Care and Protection Act and schemes like Integrated Child Protection Scheme have scope to extend support to vulnerable children only up to the age of 18. In such circumstances, there will be no space to provide support to a child bride or groom between the age of 19 to 21 if rescued from child marriage,” Sandhyabati Pradhan, who leads Odisha’s child rights panel, said in a letter to Vinay P. Sahasrabuddhe, chairperson of the parliamentary standing committee on education, women, children, youth and sports that is examining the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
Pradhan also underlined that laws such as the child sex abuse law, Pocso only bars consensual sex up to the age of 18. “This implies that someone may have sexual act after 18 but won’t be able marry till 21 which will create new sets of issues like increasing unwed mothers and foeticide thereafter,” she said in her letter.
Pradhan underlined that change of legislation in isolation will never be able to stop child marriages unless there is socio-behavioural change among parents and community.
“The National Crime Record Bureau data says that only 785 cases have been registered under Prohibition of Child Marriage in 2020 which is 523 in 2019 and 501 in 2018. On the other hand, 23.3% girls are marrying before the legal age as captured by NFHS-5 (National Family and Health Survey),” she said.
Pradhan said factors such as distress and poverty, patriarchal norms and practices, lack of opportunity for schooling, employment and the like are still contributing to the prevalence of child marriage to a large extent. “There is also a need to strengthen families by providing appropriate livelihood opportunity,” she said.
OSCPCR, a statutory body, is a key stakeholder of the state government is spearheading the campaign to end child marriage in the state by 2030. A high power committee at the state has been formed to facilitate the process.
Get Current Updates on India News, Rajya Sabha Election 2024 Live, Gaganyaan Mission Astronauts along with Latest News and Top Headlines from India and around the world