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Ending child marriage

Ending Child Marriage

South Orissa Voluntary Action (SOVA) has been working in the tribal districts of Koraput, Rayagada, Nabarangapur and Malkangiri in southern Odisha, and has been dedicated to the development of the tribal and marginalised communities especially women and children. SOVA is committed to working towards strengthening child protection systems, ending child marriage, and preventing child labour, child trafficking, violence against children, child sexual abuse and promoting community-based care and protection mechanisms. We are focused on the implementation of key child protection legislation and the promotion of practices that protect children from violence, abuse and exploitation. Prevention is central to our strategy and our programming as it is the most effective way to deal with child sexual abuse and exploitation. We work with the government on a range of support services that provide healing to victims/survivors and their families including a focus on counselling, support for school continuation and social protection. SOVA with support of Kailash Satyarthy Children’s Foundation works to bring an end to issues of Child Marriage, Child Trafficking and Child Sexual Abuse in its operational area.

Child Marriage – Background

Child Marriage is not just an age-old social evil, but also a heinous crime that robs children of their childhood. Child marriage is a “crime against children” that violates basic human rights, minor girls are forced to marry and live a life of mental trauma, physical and biological stress, domestic violence including limited access to education and increased vulnerability to domestic violence. The consequences of child marriage are severe and extensive. Some of the specific consequences include: early pregnancies leading to complications and higher rate of maternal mortality and death of infants, malnutrition among both the infant and the mother, increased vulnerability to reproductive health, disruption in girl’s education and thereby reduction in opportunities of her personal and professional development, domestic violence and abuse, limited decision making powers in the household, and mental health issues.

In the district of Koraput and Nabarangpur, the issue of child marriage is much more and most of the time it is either under-reported or goes unnoticed knowingly or unknowingly. As per a report of ToI (16th Nov 2019)Koraput accounts for 34 per cent of total child marriages in the State and the illegal practice is not only prevalent among tribal communities of Kondh, Soura, Bhumiya, Bhotra, Durua and Gadava who reside in 14 blocks but among other communities in the districts. However, the same survey revealed that half of the 30 districts of Odisha had a child marriage prevalence rate of more than 20%. At 39.4%, Nabarangpur reported the highest child marriage incidents followed by Nayagarh (35.7%), Koraput (35.5%), Malkangiri (32.4%), Rayagada (33.2%) and Mayurbhanj (31.2%).

Child Marriage Free India Campaign

Understanding the seriousness of the issue, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in W.P. Civil 382 of 2013 pronounced that the sexual intercourse committed by the husband upon his wife being under the age of 18 years with or without her consent can be constituted as rape. To address this, the most definitive and audacious commitment to end child marriage was made with the launch of Child Marriage Free India campaign.

The Child Marriage Free India campaign has received extended support from various Departments and Institutions of over 2 Districts . So far, across two district more than 2 lakhs people have taken the pledge to end child marriage over the last one year through the efforts of the Child.

The Campaign Activities includes:

The campaign event was conducted  in Koraput and Nabarangpur districts covering 300 villages. Awareness for school children was conducted in 209 schools where about 23,000 children were oriented through short films and messages.

The major activities conducted during the process are:

  • Rallies were conducted by children on ‘No to Child Marriage’.
  • Signature campaign conducted in 309 schools
  • Mass pledge collection
  • Radio broadcasting and penal discussion on Child marriage free India,
  • Observation of Child Right Week Campaign

Tipping Point to End Child Marriage

Noted child rights activist, author, Supreme Court lawyer and founder of CMFI campaign, Bhuwan Ribhu has authored a book – ‘When Children Have Children: Tipping Point to End Child Marriage’ and put forth a framework advocating a sustainable, holistic and focused strategy with time-bound targets and measurable indicators to make India child marriage free by 2030. This book shows the path to eliminating child marriage in India within the next decade. As suggested by the author in the book, by adopting a systematic, highly focused, and intensive intervention model, over a phased timeline it is possible to reduce the national child marriage prevalence levels to 5.5% —the threshold, the tipping point, beyond which the prevalence is anticipated to diminish organically with reduced reliance on targeted interventions.

Tipping Point Methodology

The aim of reduction of 60% of child marriage (in each of the phases) is assumed to bring down the incidence of child marriage to 5.5% in the next 9 nine years from 2021, from the last available estimates i.e., NFHS-5, till 2030. An additional assumption is that such a focused and elaborate intervention against child marriage would have a ripple effect. The tipping point analysis has been divided into two phases. The first phase will extend over a period of six years, starting in 2021. Subsequently, the second phase will span over a three-year period. It is expected that the national average for child marriage prevalence (percentage women aged 20-24 who were married before 18 years) would decline from 23.3% to 13.7% if the prevalence of child marriage is reduced by 60% in the 257 high-prevalence districts in the first phase followed by a further reduction of 60% in all districts across the country.

In order to reach the Tipping Point, the author has proposed a strategy at national and district level.

  1. National Level Strategy where Governments, Institutions, statutory bodies, etc. work towards prevention, protection, increased investment, improved prosecution, convergence and use of technology for monitoring
  2. District Level Strategy is similar to national level strategy but includes district administration, Panchayats, civil society, NGOs, other functionaries, parents and children who work collectively to prevent, report, and take action against child marriage

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