Bongaigaon DC declares war against child marriage menace

GUWAHATI: Taking cognisance of rising cases of child marriage in Bongaigaon district of Assam, the Deputy Commissioner Adil Khan has taken a tough stand on the matter.

He has ordered the District Child Protection Officer to lodge FIR whenever such cases are reported in the district, since child marriage is an offence and is prohibited under the Child Marriage Prohibition Act, 2006.

This law prescribes punishment for parents/guardians concerned in child marriage, male adult marrying a child and even those who solemnise/conduct child marriages.

He was speaking at a stakeholders’ meeting under the Juvenile Justice Act-2015 and other child related laws held in Bongaigaon on Thursday.

In his speech, DC Adil Khan said that though there was a separation of powers between the judiciary, executive and legislature, such social issues require convergence, which has been achieved through the DLSA.

The Deputy Commissioner expressed dissatisfaction with the working of the DCPO, who is also child marriage prohibition officer under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act in controlling the evil of child marriage. In addition, he said that child marriage was not just a social evil but also a crime. Child marriages result in early pregnancies threatening the life of the teenage mother and the child, if it survives at all. He lamented that at a time when the girl child is supposed to be studying and playing, she is subjected to physical, mental and emotional agony.

The Deputy Commissioner urged all stakeholders to join in the war against Child Marriage to wipe out the evil from our society. Besides legal action, extensive awareness drives will also be conducted in the District.

The meet, held at District Judicial Court Conference Hall was organised by the District Legal Service Authority supported by the district administration. It was attended by Chief Judicial Magistrate Sujata Dutta, secretary of DLSA, C.P Talukdar, Joint Director of Health Services Dr Ratna Basumatary, Additional CM&HO Dr Labanya Sharma, District Programme Officer of National Mental Health Programme Dr Oli Roy Chakrabarty, District Child Protection Officer, District Social Welfare Officer, District Labour Officer, Police officials, NHM officials and representatives from different NGOs. 

The District Programme Manager of National Health Mission Smita Roy Chakrabarty threw light on problems of child marriage and early pregnancy of the district. “Child marriages also cause teenage pregnancy and thus pose a threat to the mother and the baby,” she said.

Bongaigaon is one among 50 districts in the country having a high number of child marriages with a record of 22% cases of teenage pregnancy of all cases in the state as per NFHS-4 data. As a result, teenage pregnancy rate, malnourishment of babies and infant mortality rates, maternal deaths are also striking issues in the district.

 The meeting had a threadbare discussion on effective coordination amongst various stakeholders under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, Child Marriage and POSCO Act and the Mental Health Act, 2017 and ways to adopt best practices to be followed.

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