The coastal Ganjam has earned the distinction of becoming Odisha’s first district as a whole to be conferred the tag of child marriage-free zone, officials said on Tuesday.
The district registered 48,383 total marriages in the year 2020-21 out of which 26 were child marriage which the authorities addressed through Child Welfare Committee (CWC).
To nip the abhorrent practice in the bid, the district administration has announced a ten-fold increase in cash incentives from Rs 5,000 to Rs 50,000 for credible information on child marriage.
Poverty coupled with the ignorance of illiterate parents contributes towards the prevalence of this illegal practice. Ironically the majority of parents are unaware of legal provisions of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, which is a cognizable offence.
As many as 16 districts- Malkangiri, Mayurbhanj, Nabarangpur, Nayagarh, Koraput, Rayagada, Dhenkanal, Ganjam, Gajapati, Keonjhar, Balasore, Deogarh, Boudh, Subarnapur, Kandhamal, and Angul- are identified as regions where the evil practice is lurking its ugly head from time to time. However, in a refreshing turn of events, Ganjam has now become child-marriage-free.
Meanwhile, the rate of child marriage practice in the coastal State has dropped in the last year, thanks to joint initiatives by government functionaries and child rights activists.
If the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5 for the year 2020-21 conducted by the ministry of health and family welfare is any indication, the girl child marriage rate has dipped by 20.5 percent while the male child under-age marriage rate has dropped by 13.3 percent in the State.
The legally permissible age for girls and boys to get married is 18 and 21 respectively. In the event, they marry before attaining the permissible age, such weddings come under the category of child marriages.