Strengthening the role of a child marriage protection officer, rehabilitation of child forced into marriage and compulsory marriage certificate for every couple getting married in rural and urban areas are some of the suggestions a 10-member state-appointed committee is looking at to curb child marriages in Maharashtra.
In November, the Maharashtra Women and Child Development (WCD) department issued directives to amend rules of Prohibition of Child Marriage Act to give more teeth to existing law. A committee formed under the WCD department will most likely submit a proposal by December 15.
Committee members said they are proposing to incorporate provisions under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, and Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, in the amended rules to make punishment more strict and are hopeful that this will act as a deterrent against child marriages. “The working of child marriage protection officer has to be strengthened to ensure better monitoring. We are also looking at making marriage certificates compulsory so that a marriage can be stopped if the bride or groom is minor,” said WCD secretary Idzes Kundan.
Early marriages, Kundan added, lead to underage pregnancy and underweight children leading to malnourishment and stunted growth.
Two-fold rise in cases
The 10-member committee is headed by Nirmala Samant Prabhavalkar and has members from NGOs and UNICEF. “We are making the rules so that Prohibition of Child Marriage Act is implemented well in Maharashtra,” said Asha Bajpai, from Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
A member of the committee said, “We are also framing a rehabilitation component for the child. Child marriage can strip a child of right to education and force her into domestic violence. Children saved from child marriages must be presented to child welfare committee and their rehabilitation must be chalked out.”
While the committee plans to propose to make marriage certificates compulsory for every marriage, members said awareness will be required in tribal areas, which follow their own tradition for marriage.
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