Karnataka: 188 minor girls were pushed into marriage during pandemic, say officials | Bengaluru News – Times of India
They say the exodus of migrant workers from big cities and towns, their struggle for livelihood, protracted closure of schools, and anxiety in poor communities about their children’s immediate future were among the contributing factors.
According to the women and child welfare department’s latest data, 188 minor girls were forced into marriage during the said period. The highest number of cases was recorded in Hassan (26), followed by Mandya (25), Mysuru (24) and Belagavi (19).
The 188 girls were rescued and rehabilitated, said the department’s director, RS Peddapaiah. Separately, the department prevented 2,074 child marriages after receiving tipoffs from NGOs, citizens and alert officials. It has filed 108 police cases against those involved in the illegal practice.
“There was a rise of 10 to 15 per cent in child marriages during the lockdown period. The rehabilitated girls were counselled and urged to continue their studies. In slightly older children, the option of skill-based training is provided,” Peddapaiah said.
In Ballari, 218 child marriages were prevented, the highest in the state. Eleven ceremonies came to light and police officers filed FIRs in seven cases. In Bengaluru, five child marriages took place and 20 were prevented.
Child rights activists say the actual number of illegal marriages could be higher as every case is not detected. “Despite the best efforts of the government and NGOs during the pandemic, some cases may have gone unnoticed. Children have been away from school for a long time and this factor contributed to certain cases,” said activist Nagasimha G Rao.
Rescued minors were taken to government-run homes for care and protection. “Counselling was done in all the cases where we stopped the marriage. It’s a myth that child marriages occur only in tribal colonies. There have been instances in urban centres like Mysuru. Some marriages were scheduled at 2am or 3am at shrines even during the lockdown,” said E Dhananjaya Yeliyur, a member of the Child Welfare Committee, Mysuru.
In Mysuru, 177 ceremonies were prevented and 23 FIRs were lodged. The youngest girl rescued by Yeliyur’s team in Mysuru is 14. Her family tried to marry her off to a 30-yearold man.
According to Yeliyur, in most cases, parents are aware that child marriages are illegal and plan things with utmost secrecy. “In some cases, the girls told us that their parents were unwell and hence they wanted to marry them off. In some other instances, there was pressure from grandparents. Such marriages are a reality in all communities,” he added.