Child Marriages On The Decline In Odisha, But Still Disturbingly High

Child marriage, may sound archaic and a nineteenth century practice to the educated masses, but it is still prevalent in some pockets in India.

Young boys and girls are married off long before the approved age of marriage as stipulated by the Government of India. This practice affects the girls more than the boys. “If there is marriage, then we cannot deny there is no teenage pregnancies, early motherhood, this also results in complications like maternal health, infant health, nutrition. There is an impact on all these factors,” said UNFPA State Coordinator, Odisha, Dr Deepa Prasad, while addressing a gathering at the launch of State Strategic Plan to check child marriages, a joint venture of DWCW and Mission Shakti.

The NFHS-4 survey puts cases of child marriages in Odisha at 21.3%, 5 points less than the National average of 26.8%. But when compared to other Indian states, at the 15th position, Odisha is somewhere in the middle. Data Analysis shows that the number of girls marrying at an early age, is almost twice that of the number of boys.

As many as 411 child marriages, involving mostly minor girls, were prevented last year due to timely intervention by authorities and social activists.

“Prevalence of child marriage has reduced substantially but the pace of reduction has to be accelerated to ensure that Odisha is child marriage-free by 2030, we need to emphasise on the convergence among different departments like police, school and mass education and the judiciary, higher education and skill development who have key roles in preventing occurrences, of child marriage,” said, DWCW Principal Secretary Anu Garg.

In the 1992-93 survey, the National average was 54% while Odisha’s was 45%. And when compared to this, NFHS- 4’s report comes as an assurance that the preventive steps taken by the state government have started showing results.

To make Odisha child marriage free by 2030, the Women and Child Welfare (DWCW) Department and Mission Shakti launched a State Strategic Plan (SAP) on Wednesday, with the support of UNICEF and UNFPA. New rules on the prevention of child marriage, along with an action plan were also released on the occasion.

A task force was constituted in Koraput district In September to check the practice of child marriage, common among the tribal communities in the region. The annual rate of child marriage in the district is 34.7% as compared to state average of 21.3 %.

To achieve gender equality and empowerment of women and girl child, the Odisha government has asked all district collectors to include a plan for a campaign against child marriage while preparing Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP). All villages would also be encouraged to achieve “child marriage free” status, it said.


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