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Assam Crackdown On Child Marriage

Since February 3rd, the Assam Police continued their raid despite protests in the state, as there were over 4,074 cases of child marriage reported there. Until  February 13th, 3,015 individuals had been arrested for marrying minor girls or for arranging such marriages.

How did this all start?

This move was introduced by the Assam Cabinet, which aims to control child marriages and prevent early motherhood in the state. According to reports by the National Family Health Survey(HFHS), Assam has a high rate of maternal and infant mortality rates, which are primarily caused by child marriages. HFHS noted that an average of 31 percent of marriages registered in the state are in the prohibited age group.  As per NFHS-5  2019-21, around 11.7 per cent of women between 15-19 years of age in Assam were already mothers or pregnant at the time of the survey.

Following the Assam Cabinet's decision to charge men who marry girls under the age of 14 under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, arrests have already been made. The 2006 Prohibition of Child Marriage Act will be used to prosecute those who marry girls between the age of 14 and 18.

Furthermore Chief Minister Himanta Sarma Biswa states that men who marry girls under the age of 14 will face non-bailable charges, while men who marry girls between the ages of 14 and 16 will face charges under sections subject to bail. If the groom is younger than 14 years old, he will be placed in a reformatory. The marriages are declared illegal and the offenders will be taken into custody.

Current Scenario In Assam

After this decision, 4,074 FIRs were filed across the state and arrests were made based on the FIRs. Total Arrests reached 3,015 by February 13, 2023 for either marrying minor girls or solemnising child marriages. According to the Chief Minister, the state has a record of 8,000 similar people and no one will be spared. Following that he stated that his elimination operation is going to continue until the 2026 assembly election. He also updates data about child marriage arrests on his Twitter account every day.

Twitter Image

The arrests shook up the entire state. The Assam government may have introduced the move with the right intentions. Still it has not gone down well with women in Assam especially those from Dhubri (the district with the highest number of child marriage cases in the state). Many women descended on the streets of Dhubri as police came to arrest their husbands and sons. Women gathered in front of the Tamarha police station and demanded the release of their family members. Women protested outside multiple police stations claiming that the government's relentless search for women’s safety worsened their suffering. As a result, Only women are left at home and their lives are in danger, as police began rounding up spouses, fathers of girls, witnesses and priests by reopening old cases including those living a peaceful family life with children. 

Rising Criticism Against the Government 

Asaduddin Owaisi, the leader of the All India Majlis-C-Ittihadul Muslimen, criticised Sarma for being "biassed" and questioned the intent behind the crackdown. According to Asaduddin Owaisi, if the Assam government was genuinely concerned about the issue of child marriage, it should have prioritized raising literacy rates, "experts have advised you to open several schools to prevent child marriages but you haven't done that. You also shuttered the madrassas that provided some education.” Due to this form of discrimination, Asaduddin Owaisi also criticised that the government's action was anti-Muslim. 

"Child marriage is not something we support. The value of upsetting settled families with grown children  however, is questionable. Simply said, it's a publicity stunt.” stated by Bhupen Bora, the State Congress president. He also pointed out that the situation requires a “humanitarian approach”. 

According to Assam Jatiya Parishad leader Lurinjyoti Gogoi, the government launched a crackdown without considering how it would affect the public, "the government should have considered how the wives and families would suffer in the case of arrests. The action was carried out carelessly."

As the official statistics state, the underprivileged and marginalised segments of society are increasingly the government's targets. In locations with a high minority population, schools have not yet been authorised. On the contrary, every effort is being taken to restrict the madrasahs that give Muslim students their fundamental education. People are given government land in Upper Assam. However, this benefit is not available in Lower Assam. And the government of Himanta Biswa is not taking any action in this regard.

The BJP government's action which have been in place for the past six years without taking any proactive steps to implement the Child Marriage Prohibition Act and its following use of police force right now, is a questionable act among the Assam people. People of Assam criticised the government that the administration is using the removal of a social ill as a voting card by announcing that the search would carry on till the next election. And also the people are angry for counting the arrests like medals. 

Voice On This Matter

Governmental and institutional systems are still unsure about how to handle this. Thousands of men and young people are being hunted down, leaving thousands of families in poverty and prisons overcrowded without any apparent planning or solutions. Now they are building temporary jails since the regular ones are filled. And the number of arrests has risen daily and women were attempting suicide  to reclaim their husbands.  Furthermore, a 16-year-old pregnant girl died as the family attempted to give her a home birth delivery as she had a suspicion that her husband and father will be arrested if she goes to the hospital. 

At the start, these arrests were acceptable but too many arrests affected the administration and the criminal justice system and the entire state people. These cases have to be treated quickly and decisions have to be determined. Otherwise during the trial, the high number of arrests will consume all state savings and affect the people profoundly.

And it is a widely acknowledged truth that systematic policy and enforcement are required to eliminate social ills and prevent the emergence of new ones. Only a collective effort including budget allocation, improvements in women's education, financial help for overcoming daily difficulties and skill-development training can save the population and the state from this social injustice. So the government must approach the problems clearly and intelligently. First the government has to spread awareness  then has to set deadlines and in the end  they have to take action. Government has to be careful as it affects the  people's lives. 


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Tags: #Assam #ChildMarriage #2006ProhibitionOfChildMarriageAct #AssamCrackdown


1 month, 1 week ago by deeksharao21

Well done...Darshini!!

1 month, 1 week ago by Indumathi

Journalist Rajadharshini well done

1 month, 1 week ago by Sethu

Journalist Raja dharshini indhumathi annamalai 🥺❤

1 month, 1 week ago by Sethu

This article is more informative and more importantly easily conveying. Congrats for the first step of your career raja dharshini annamalai. I'm so proud of your work and you!

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