India has the world's largest number of child brides and its child marriage figure jumped post COVID-19. This was revealed at a sensitisation-cum consultation workshop on preventing child marriage in Manipur.
The one-day workshop was held at the Manipur Press Club in Imphal on Thursday. It was organised by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and Manipur Commission for Protection of Child Rights and Manipur Seva Samiti.
According to a statistical analysis of child marriage in India based on census 2011, three states in north east region, Tripura recorded 21.6 per cent, Assam - 16.7 per cent, Arunachal Pradesh-12.1 per cent and Manipur-6.6 per cent child marriage and teen pregnancy rates higher than the national average.
"Child marriage is a violation of child rights which is still widespread in India and affecting the society," Manipur Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MCPCR) chairperson Ph Manibabu Sharma said during the workshop.
Manibabu said that child marriage is impacting the health, education, sexual and reproductive health rights and is the biggest barrier in overall development of a child.
A multi-dimensional approach is required to create a safe environment for adolescent girls to grow and decide their future, he added.
Treating the human body as a commodity causes unnecessary issues in society, he said, adding that Brahmin, pastors, moulvi, or registrar should not allow the solemnising of the marriage if the bride or bridegroom is a child. There is a need for strong instruction to elders in the society to stop child marriage or elopement, Manibabu said.
Social Welfare director Ng Uttam suggested for including health department official as a resource person to provide awareness on health issues of child marriage and adolescent health, menstrual cycle, adolescent mental health.
Prohibition of child marriage alone in context of legal will not be a success, he said, adding people should be made aware of the health issues of child marriage, especially to girls, he added.
He also proposed organising workshop for teachers to teach students to avoid early marriage. Moreover, awareness should be extended to ADC, rural and panchayat level for information on early marriage and support prohibition of child marriage at village level, he said.
In Manipur, elopement is accepted by the society and prohibition of child marriage sometimes causes trouble. Hence, after getting information of child marriage, the concerned authorities need evidence to proof the age of the child, he added.
During the technical session, advocate Thiyam Rajkishore spoke on prevention of child marriage and laws to mitigate the menace: the prohibition of child marriage (amendment) bill, 2021.
Advocate Ingudam Bikramjit also spoke on understanding the problem of child marriage in Manipur.
Child Welfare Committee, Thoubal chairperson, L Romen Meetei spoke on impact of child marriage- a case study.
MCPCR programme officer Sumel Yumnam spoke on NCPCR/MCPCR and safeguarding child rights and laws, and said that India has the world’s largest number of child brides.
According to UNICEF 2019 report, of the 650 million child brides in the world, 223 million are from India alone. Of the country’s 223 million child brides, 102 million were married before even turning 15 years of age. At least 1.5 million girls under age 18 get married in India every year.
The workshop was also attended by Social Welfare joint director Bantee Singh Konthoujam and CWC representatives.