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20 Jul, 2013

India Plans Ways to Curb Child Marriage


Ministry of Women and Child Development, 18-July, 2013, Ministry for Women and Child Development organised a day long National Consultation on draft plan of action on Prevention of Child Marriage, here today. The meeting was presided over by Ms. Nita Chowdhury, Secretary, Ministry for Women and Child Development. Also present at the meeting was Mrs Kushal Sigh, Chairperson, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).

Speaking at the occasion, the Secretary, Ministry for Women and Child Development said that we still have a huge burden of child marriage in the country which needs solutions that will work at the grassroots. We need real solutions and real models that have worked in various states, she stated. She said that there have been some success stories in many states where religious and community leaders have been involved along with activists to reach out to the adolescent boys, girls and empower them. This consultation will provide an opportunity to learn more of these models and experiments that have worked and which can be replicated, she added. She also invited NCPCR to recommend solutions to ensure that child marriages do not occur.

The aim of the national consultation with different ministries, civil society organizations and other stakeholders is to deliberate on the strategic interventions which will be implemented using convergent and multi- dimensional approaches. Its long-term goal is to make girls and boys in India free from child marriage and also to make them realize their full potential and live a life of dignity. The plan covers seven objectives and specific strategies, each of which is important in its own right but which also complement and reinforce one another and address prevention of child marriage which are: to enforce PCMA 2006 and related laws and policies that can discourage child marriage, to improve access to quality education and other vocational opportunities, to initiate programmes that enable community mobilization and outreach to change social norms and attitudes, to build skills and capacities of adolescent girls and boys to collect data, initiate research to inform programming and interventions, to develop monitoring and evaluation systems for measuring outcomes and to improve co-ordination, communication and monitoring among these involved in the implementation.

Addressing the gathering, Mrs Kushal Singh, Chairperson, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) said that issue of child marriage is related to prevailing social structures and mind-sets. Although many attempts have been made to create awareness but there is much that still needs to be done.

Participants present in the consultation expressed their views on the need to work on gender inequity in the society which impacts girls and women adversely, driven by deep-rooted patriarchy in society which moulds and influences power equations. They said that although there are many programmes that attempt to enhance life skills of girls but they are not in a position to make any difference as the girls do not have opportunities to use their skills. They do not have the control over their resources, they avered. They suggested that there is a need of convergence between livelihood platforms, sexual health and reproductive platforms and educational platforms. The participants said that there is a need to work on men and boys so that they can resist the cultural forces which perpetuate the prevailing social structures. They also said that resistance form communities prevent child officers from making any differences. International evidences shows that community support goes long way to alter social norms and attitudes, some pointed out.

Representatives from various states participated including Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. In addition to NGOs and activists senior officers from the M/o WCD were also present.