No ‘child marriage’ in Nagaland, most NE States

Source: Based on National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data provided by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development in reply to an unstarred question on ‘Child Marriage’ in the Lok Sabha on February 11.

Source: Based on National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data provided by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development in reply to an unstarred question on ‘Child Marriage’ in the Lok Sabha on February 11.

•    Only Assam, Tripura report cases of ‘child marriage’ in NE 
•    Number of cases increased considerably across India in 2020

Morung Express News 
Dimapur | February 20

Nagaland and most North-East states had no cases of ‘child marriage’ from 2016-2020 even as such cases witnessed an upward trend in other parts of the country in recent years, according to data provided by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD)  in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha on February  11.

The data based on National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report highlighted that only Assam and Tripura had cases of ‘child marriage’ in NE while it increased considerably across India from 523 in 2019 to 785 in 2020.

While Tripura reported 7 cases in the intervening period, the figure in Assam at 422 was second highest among the States/Union Territories in India. 

In 2020, Assam recorded 138 cases of child marriage, while there were 115 cases in 2019. 

Among the States/UTs, Karnataka had the highest cases of child marriage at 484 from 2016-2020, followed by 422 in Assam, 326 in West Bengal and 300 in Tamil Nadu. 

Apart from six NE States—Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim, other States/UT with ‘Zero’ cases of child marriage were Goa and Ladakh.

The NCRB compiles and publishes the data on the number of cases of child marriage registered under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA), 2006 in its publication 'Crime in India,' the WCD Minister Smriti Zubin Irani stated in the reply. 

What is ‘child marriage’? 
As per the PCMA 2006, a child means “a person who, if a male, has not completed twenty-one years of age, and if a female, has not completed eighteen years of age.”

Accordingly, ‘child marriage’ is defined as a “marriage to which either of the contracting parties is a child.”

“The ‘contracting party’ in relation to a marriage, means either of the parties whose marriage is or is about to be thereby solemnized.”

Meanwhile, on action taken by the Government of India (GoI) against such marriages, the WCD Minister informed that 'Police' and 'Public Order' are State subjects under the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India.

“The responsibilities to maintain law and order, protection of life and property of the citizens, investigation and prosecution of crime against women and children including prohibition of child marriages, rest with the respective State Governments,” Irani highlighted, 

“The State Governments are competent to deal with such offenses under the extant provisions of laws,” she added. 

Preventive Measures
However, the Minister pointed out that the Union Government has enacted the PCMA 2006 and the Section 16 of the Act authorises the “State Government to appoint for the whole State, or such part thereof as may be specified, an officer or officers to be known as the 'Child Marriage Prohibition Officers (CMPO)’ having jurisdiction over the area or areas specified in the notification.”

The functions of CMPOs include preventing solemnisation of child marriages by taking such action as they may deem fit; to collect evidence for the effective prosecution of persons contravening the provisions of the Act; to advise the individuals or counsel the residents of the locality not to indulge in promoting, helping, aiding or allowing the solemnisation of child marriages; to create awareness about the ill effects of child marriages; and to sensitize the community on the issue of child marriages.

These authorities function under the respective State Governments/ UT Administrations. As such, implementation of the provisions of the Act lies with them, Irani added. 

In addition, the WCD Minister informed that the Central Government also undertakes awareness drives, media campaigns and outreach programmes and issues advisories to the States/UTs from time to time to highlight evil effects of this practice.

Further, the Ministry is implementing the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) scheme, wherein creation of awareness on matters pertaining to gender equality and discouraging child marriage is an important focus area, she noted. 

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) also undertakes awareness programmes and consultations with stakeholders from time to time in this regard, she informed. 

In addition, the GoI has introduced CHILDLINE with short code 1098, a 24X7 telephone emergency outreach service for children in crisis which responds with suitable interventions to call for any form of assistance which a child requires, including for prevention of child marriages in coordination with police, CMPOs, District Child Protection Units etc, the Minister added.