The Tamil Nadu government statistics have revealed that 1,586 child marriages were prevented in the state from January to November in 2017, as per a report in The Times of India.
This represents an increase of 60% of such cases in four years.
The data was provided by the directorate of social welfare nearly a week after the ministry of women and child development informed the Lok Sabha that the state had recorded the highest number of cases under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act in the country.
Director of social welfare V Amuthavalli, told ToI, ”These numbers reflect only those that were reported. We need to map places where child marriages are high, but reporting is low."
Social welfare officials at a review meeting held last week with the health departmnt, had studied the scope of procuring data on mothers below 19 years of age who make use of government healthcare.
"Our aim is not to penalise them, but to understand the socio-economic factors that pushed them into marriage and to plan intervention," she added.
Figures revealed that in the the last nine years, 6,658 marriages were averted by officials. However, the number of FIRs filed remained abysmally low at just 158 cases, while court stay orders were issued in six, the report says.
According to officials, the accused in such cases are normally let off after signing a stamped paper where they pledge not to get the child married till she becomes a major.
An FIR is filed only in serious cases, like that of rape or abuse or if the girl wants to press charges, said a district social welfare officer.
As per statistics till November, Dharmapuri reported the highest number of child marriages with 180, followed by Salem and Tiruvannamalai at 135. Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur make up 3% of these cases.
Figues for 2016 reveal that from January till October of that year, the government had prevented 1,113 child marriages across the state while 1,082 were thwarted for the same period in 2015.