The girl alerted the Childline (1098) with the help of a friend that she was being married off against her will.

A young girl accessing online classes through smartphoneImage for representation (Courtesy: Charan Teja)
news Child marriage Friday, June 11, 2021 - 16:42

"I want to continue my studies and get a job in the future but my parents want to marry me off," said 14-year-old Srija (name changed) when officials arrived to stop her child marriage. The incident, which took place on Wednesday in Geesukonda in Warangal Rural district, has once again pointed to concerns over safe and healthy childhood of girl children during the pandemic.

The 14-year-old girl, according to the officials, studies in class 9 at a local government run school. Her parents decided to get her married to a 30-year-old man. As they wanted to conduct the ceremony without alerting the authorities, they took the girl to Nandanayak thanda in Geesukonda from Garlgaddathanda of Rajupet in Narsampet mandal.

The girl alerted the Childline (1098) with the help of a friend that she was being married off against her will. The Childline officials alerted the local police, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Child Protection Unit and stopped the wedding.

According to G Nirmala Marry, a representative from the Warangal Rural district Childline, the wedding was stopped at the last moment. She said that the parents and family members kept lying to the officials that it was just an engagement ceremony. Nirmala said, "The engagement was already done. They were set to marry the girl to a 30-year-old man. When we reached out, the girl started crying as she wanted to study. We then took her to a state home.”

The girl was later produced before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), and the CWC instructed the authorities to keep monitoring the girl in view of the incident, and to prevent any further attempts by the family to force her into marriage. The family was given counselling and made to sign an undertaking before the child was sent back with her parents.

Nirmala further added, "The girl has now been sent home with her parents, but we have instructed the local ICDS officials and the Anganwadi staff, besides elected representatives, to look after her safety."

Geesukonda Station House Officer (SHO) Venkateshwarlu also confirmed to TNM that the wedding attempt was foiled and due counselling was given against child marriages to the community elders.

As per the official data released by the state Women and Child Development Department, from April 2020 to March 2021, as many as 1,355 child marriages were foiled. Of these, 72 child marriages were stopped in Warangal rural, 25 in Warangal urban, 22 in neighbouring Janagaon and 26 in Jayashankar Bhupalpally.

While child marriages are illegal as per the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, the scores of child marriage attempts in the state have raised concerns. According to Childline and Women & Child Development Department officials, child marriages have risen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Child rights activists say that the number of child marriages which go unreported and unstopped are high in remote/interior rural areas.

Read: Young women in Telangana are being forced to drop education for marriage amid pandemic

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