Tamil Nadu government to order school heads to submit long absentees details to crack down on child marriages

Compared to 2019 to 2020 there was increase in number of reported child marriage cases in the state
Representational image (Picture: Express illustrations)
Representational image (Picture: Express illustrations)

Educationists and child activists have urged the Tamil Nadu Government to order school heads across the state to submit details of long absentees to calculate the real data on unreported child marriage details during the pandemic, when the schools were closed for a long time. After the pandemic began, child marriages across the state have increased. Though there is the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 and monitoring mechanisms, still there is increasing number of child marriages in the state. Compared to 2019, in 2020 there was an increase in number of reported child marriage cases in the state. 

In Madurai district alone over 276 child marriages have bren reported from January 2020 till now. Among these, FIR has been filed in 29 cases. It is noted that during the year of 2019, of the total of 87 child marriages reported, FIR was filed in only four cases. Child activists claim that there is an increasing number of unreported cases of child marriages which is four times higher than reported cases. Following this, TNIE spoke to a few school heads of government higher secondary schools. 

On request of anonymity, a school head from a government school said that from Class IX to XII more than five girls got married and few of them are pregnant now. "Though we know the truth, we are not able to lodge complaints because we would not do so against the village people. It was held with the knowledge of the Extension Officer of the social welfare department and elected representatives of village panchayats", he said. He further stated that in order to find out the unreported child marriages, Tamil Nadu Government should order school heads to send the report on long absentees. Though these long absentees' names are in the nominal roll, they did not come to school because they got married. 

Speaking to TNIE, Thozhamai, an NGO working for Child rights, Director A Devaneyan said that present DMK government is keen to work to prevent child marriage and ensure child rights. "Recently TN Government came up with Child Policy 2021. It is a good plan and needs to be implemented soon. At present the government has ordered to form a 'Village Level Child Protection' committee under convergence of various departments. It will help curb the child marriages in future," he said. He further stated it is mandatory to find out the unreported child marriages across the state. "After identifying the unreported child marriages, girls must be made to stay in the home to continue their education. If pregnancy is detected in child marriages, with the support of the Child Welfare Committee, good medical care must be provided. Continuous awareness, monitoring mechanism, transformation of human mind set must be held. Everyone has the responsibility to stop child marriages. It is not only for social welfare or some other department. Separate Child marriage Prohibition Officer must be appointed under Social Defence Department. Other states including Rajasthan have separate officers and teams for the prohibition of child marriages. Act must be stringent. If FIR is filed for child marriage, men should not be allowed to apply for government job." he added.

District Social Welfare Officer Koperumdevi said that in the district more number of child marriages have been stopped on time compared to other districts. "In rural areas like Thirumangalam, Usilampatti, Sedapatti, Chellampatti, an increasing number of child marriages are reported from government schools. Once I get information from any person, I enquire about the case with the support of the police, childline, then present the child with family members to the Child Welfare Committee(CWC). Action would be taken as per law," she said. Speaking to TNIE, District Collector S Aneesh Shekhar said that the district administration is enforcing the law strictly and on the other side it is continuously creating awareness among children and parents on impact of health issues, social issues and economical issues in view of child marriage.

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