Crackdown on child marriages in Assam: Women demand release of their husbands, sons

  • Over 2,000 people have so far been arrested and 4,004 cases have been registered in the state
  • Asaduddin Owaisi calls the move communal, biased against the Muslim
  • 31.8% of women aged between 20-24 years in the state are married before legal age of 18 years: NFHS

 Police on Saturday resorted to lathi-charge to quell women-led protest in Dhubri district of Assam against the arrests of their husbands and son accused of marring underage girls. They were demanding the release of their family members.

The development comes a week after the BJP-led government launched a ‘war’ against child marriages in the state. According to India Today, tension prevailed in the district after police use force to disperse the protesting women who had gathered in front of the Tamarha Police Station.

Over 2,000 people have so far been arrested and 4,004 cases have been registered in the state. Till Saturday morning, 2,170 persons across the state have been arrested and 4,074 child marriage cases have been registered. Of them, 137 arrests have been made in Biswanath district, followed by 126 in Dhubri, 120 in Baksa, 114 in Barpeta and 96 in Kokrajhar. The police have arrested 52 purohits and kazis (Muslim clerics) who conducted such wedding rituals in religious institutions.

While various laws have been enacted in India to prevent child marriages, the state continues to record a high percentage of underage marriages, leading to high rates of infant mortality rate (IMR) and maternal mortality rate (MMR). According to source, the police said they have a list of 8,000 accused and the drive will continue.

The state cabinet on January 23 gave a signal to police to crack down on child marriages across the state. As part of the move, the government has decided to book men who marry girls below 14 years of age under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO). Those who marry girls in the age group of 14-18 years will be tried under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.

The move necessitated following worrisome report of the National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5), which says 31.8 per cent of women aged between 20-24 years in the state were married before legal age of 18 years.

The figure is higher than national figure of 23.3 per cent, the “war” against the scourge of child marriages is seen as an important step.

Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said: “The main reason for the high infant mortality rate and Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) is child marriage. The state has an average of 31 percent of marriages in the prohibited age.”

“Thousands of husbands will be arrested in the next five-six months as it is a crime to have sexual relations with a girl below 14 years of age, even if he is her legally wed husband… Many (men who marry girls) could face life imprisonment,” the chief minister said last week announcing the crackdown.

AIMIM opposes move

Meanwhile, All India Muslim Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi alleged that the Assam government is biased against the Muslim. He said that the government’s latest crackdown on child marriage as communal. “Now that you are arresting the men, who will now look after those married girls? Will the CM look after them? For the last six years, the BJP has been in power. It is their failure then,” Owaisi said.


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