The point is that children are not mentally or physically ready for marriage
A few days ago, this newspaper had carried a report about a Muslim women’s organisation asking the government to declare all laws related to child marriage, such as the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, be applicable to the Muslim community too.
The conference was emotional, with Muslim women weeping as they talked about being married off at 14, 15 or 16. They spoke of lost dreams and not understanding the concept of marriage at that age.
They spoke about young boys too, who were married off before attaining ‘legal’ age and could not understand the responsibilities of marriage or had no agency within the larger family. The point is that children are not mentally or physically ready for marriage.
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In light of this, the crackdown by the Assam government on child marriage is welcome. Attention, though, must be paid to claims that some of the women, who are married off, are not minors. Enough thought and some plans must be in place for the minor girls who are left behind as the men got arrested or their families lost the breadwinner which may lead to ill treatment of the minor.
Let the government run campaigns about the malaise of child marriage, the evil that it is. These campaigns must highlight that it is illegal and publicise the avenues one has to complain, if being coerced into getting wards married before legal age, and how this leads to punitive action.
Most of all, it is crucial that people are made aware of this, as several people claimed they did not know it was illegal or that they could be arrested. Everybody, though, may not be speaking the truth. We do need to see aggressive, on point campaigns against child marriage, awareness created working in tandem with the law.