A plague that feeds on a pandemic – the New Indian Express
Express news service
CHENNAI: The Covid-induced lockdown has led to an increase in child marriage across the state, shattering the dreams of many young girls. State child welfare officials say they receive at least twice as many distress calls as usual from girls trying to escape marriage.
Officials say the number of distress calls and child marriages they have been able to track and stop are indicators of a worrying trend during this extended lockdown. The victims are mostly girls from economically or socially disadvantaged backgrounds.
Leaving children’s homes
Tamil Nadu has over 80,000 children in around 1,600 households, the highest in the country, followed by Kerala. The houses house not only orphans but also children from single-parent families and economically backward families. The National Commission for the Protection of the Rights of the Child ordered in mid-2020 to return children placed in institutions. While the ordinance was aimed at protecting children’s rights to stay with families, it may have contributed to child marriages, sources said.
A police officer attached to the women’s wing of Tindivanam district said, “An X-class student who was about to marry a 28-year-old man was rescued a few months ago. Later we learned that she was in a children’s home in Villupuram and her parents decided to marry her because they could not provide for her and believed that a well paid man would take care of her. it. “We are currently collecting reports of children who have left institutions,” an official said.
Madras High Court lawyer N Lalitha spoke of a 16-year-old girl who dropped out of school due to the pandemic. She was in love with her distant relative. “Her parents, who are day laborers, did not want their daughter to marry the parent, whom they saw as a ‘spoiled child’. Instead of talking to their daughter, they decided to marry her to another man. The marriage has been stopped, ”says N Lalitha.
Lailtha added that parents tend not to have mature conversations with children, which is necessary especially during lockdown when everyone is together. In the age of social media, especially as underage children spend more time on smartphones for online lessons, they find solace in strangers and it allows predators to brainwash girls.
“Recently, a girl fell in love with a man she found on social media. The duo fled and the girl was found to be pregnant when she was rescued. The man was arrested. under the POCSO law. If the parents had been open enough to understand his feelings, this incident would have been thwarted, ”Lalitha added.
Andrew Sesuraj, state official, Tamil Nadu Child Rights Watch, said unemployment in families has led many to marry their children. “Most parents who work in unorganized sectors have lost their jobs. They are looking for a potential partner to marry their daughters. They feel satisfied that their homework is over and happy that their daughter is not hungry. But, they don’t think about possibilities like abuse, depression and torture, ”Andrew said.
Since weddings became a low-key affair during the pandemic, many low-income families have married their children to escape the expenses of a normal marriage. District (Chennai) AT Child Protection Officer Ramesh Karthik said several clinics and doctors delivered childbirth to pregnant minors without notifying authorities. “It is vital that NGOs and the government educate people to avoid child marriage,” he added.
A dubious distinction
Tamil Nadu has over 80,000 children in around 1,600 households, the highest in the country. The houses are home to orphans, children from single-parent families and poor families