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Business News/ News / India/  Assam child marriage crackdown: Over 3,000 people arrested so far. 10 points
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Assam child marriage crackdown: Over 3,000 people arrested so far. 10 points

On 3 February, the Assam Police had launched statewide crackdown on child marriage, with over 2,000 people, including Hindu and Muslim priests who officiated these weddings, arrested within the first two days.

People react after police arrested their relatives allegedly involved in child marriages, during Assam government's state-wide crackdown on child marriages, near Mayong police station in Morigaon district of Assam. (Photo by AFP)Premium
People react after police arrested their relatives allegedly involved in child marriages, during Assam government's state-wide crackdown on child marriages, near Mayong police station in Morigaon district of Assam. (Photo by AFP)

Over 3000 people have been arrested so far in the ongoing crackdown on child marriage across the state of Assam. People are lodged in temporary jails, sparking protests by women who decried the arrest of sole breadwinners of their families.

On 3 February, the Assam Police had launched statewide crackdown on child marriage, with over 2,000 people, including Hindu and Muslim priests who officiated these weddings, arrested within the first two days.

The arrests are being carried out on the basis of 4,135 FIRs registered across the state. The state government has formed a cabinet sub-committee on the rehabilitation of "victims" of child marriage, and Sarma’s cabinet colleagues Ranoj Pegu, Keshab Mahanta and Ajanta Neog have been named as members of the panel. 

The state cabinet also constituted a Cabinet Sub-Committee to finalise a Rehabilitation Policy within 15 days for victims of child marriage. The decision was taken during the state cabinet meeting held in Guwahati.

Here are 10 points you need to know:

On February 6, Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma said that the drive against child marriage is for public health and public welfare as teenage pregnancy ratio in Assam is quite alarming at 16.8 percent. “We're resolved to continue this drive until we fulfil our objective. I urge the people to cooperate with us in controlling this harmful trend," he said.

With the large number of household heads, in many cases the sole bread earners, being arrested, protests were staged in different parts of the state with wives, children and family members coming out on the streets. "Our menfolk have been taken away by the police, leaving us without anyone to look after or to provide food for us," said Reshma Khatun, one of those protesting at Dhubri told PTI on Monday.

Section of people have asserted that mere law enforcement cannot be the solution while some arguing that at least the law is being discussed and may prove to be a deterrent.

Human rights lawyer Debasmita Ghosh said that once a marriage is consummated, the law considers it to be valid and children born out of such unions enjoy all legal rights. “The law states that a child marriage is voidable only if a petition is filed before a district court by the person who was a child at the time of the marriage and if the petitioner is a minor, it can be filed through his or her guardian," she told PTI.

Ghosh has further added that, “In most of the arrests made, the couples may be adults now and if they have not filed petitions for annulling their marriages, the state has no business to interfere in their personal lives." Besides, the law was enacted in 2006 and the name itself suggests marriages should be ‘prohibited’ but why was it not done so by agencies responsible for it? she questioned.

Child rights activist Miguel Das Queah has said that with the arrest made the state government definitely wanted to send out a strong message that child marriages must stop, However, she added that the government should have taken into consideration the protests that would take place following such action. “According to the law, if both the girl and the boy were minors during their marriage but are now adults, they won’t be penalised but action will be taken against the adults who arranged the wedlock, she added.

Women rights activist Anurita Pathak Hazarika told PTI that said a sociological analysis of child marriages must be looked into from the “gender lens and how inequality has an impact on these practices". Awareness on such issues, including sexual reproductive health rights, must be institutionalised by including it in the school curricula, she added.

Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (ASCPCR) chairperson Sunita Changkakoti claimed that after the “strong message sent out by the state government, people are now discussing the law about which many were unaware that resulted in child marriages". The police may not have responded to the issue earlier but they alone cannot be blamed as even the health department did not report teenage pregnancies while teachers did not report whether girls dropping out of schools had got married, she added.

The Kailash Satyarthi Children's Foundation has demanded that the Assam government provide a monthly assistance of 2,000 to every woman whose husband has been arrested till he gets bail.

The opposition too have criticised the manner in which the drive against child marriage was being carried out, equating the police action with "terrorising people". AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi had said that the Assam government should have concentrated on increasing literacy levels if it was actually seized of the problem of child marriage.

(With inputs from agencies)

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Published: 12 Feb 2023, 01:27 PM IST
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