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Assam drive against child marriage

Move part of state govt's effort to end child marriage in five years
Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma, who announced the decision after a cabinet meeting held here, said the move was based on a thorough discussion of the National Family Health Survey (NHFS) 5 by the state government.
Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma, who announced the decision after a cabinet meeting held here, said the move was based on a thorough discussion of the National Family Health Survey (NHFS) 5 by the state government.

Umanand Jaiswal   |   Guwahati   |   Published 24.01.23, 03:20 AM

The Assam government on Monday directed police to launch a statewide crackdown against those marrying underage girls as part of its efforts to end child marriage within five years.

Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who announced the decision after a cabinet meeting held here, said the move was based on a thorough discussion of the National Family Health Survey (NHFS) 5 by the state government.

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Sarma said the survey, conducted between 2019 and 2020 by the Centre, revealed the percentage of underage mothers or pregnant girls in the state at an “alarming” 11.7 per cent, much higher than the national average of 6.8 per cent, reflecting “rampant” child marriage, a root cause of high maternal mortality rate and infant mortality rate in Assam.

The legal age of marriage in India is 18 for women and 21 for men. Sarma said men who married girls under 14 years will be booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), 2012, and those marrying girls between 14 and 18 years of age will be booked under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.

Conviction under both Acts, among others, involves varying degrees of jail term. He also said the gram panchayat secretary will now also be designated as the child marriage prohibition officer (CMPO), tasked with the responsibility of lodging an FIR if they come across any child marriage case in their area.      

“We have directed the police to launch within 15 days a massive crackdown against those marrying underage girls... It will be a priority in our governance, to take sustained steps against child marriage so that our state can become free from child marriage within five years,” the chief minister said. The move was inspired by Karnataka.

“The Karnataka government is doing this. So we are taking a bit of inspiration from Karnataka,” he said.



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