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Indian Child Marriage Crackdown Causes Distress To Families

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Indian child marriage crackdown causes distress to families

(CTN NEWS) – MORIGAON, India – Nureja Khatun, 19, is concerned as she waits outside the neighborhood police station in her hamlet in northeast India. She has been holding her 6-month-old child while she waits to see her husband before the cops take him to court.

She sees her husband Akbar Ali briefly after over an hour has passed before he is bundled into a police vehicle. Before she can get any answers, a cop shuts the door in her face.

“Release my husband, please. Otherwise, please also take me into custody,” she begged.

In a massive crackdown on unlawful child weddings involving girls under 18, Khatun’s husband is one of more than 3,000 men, including Hindu and Muslim priests, who were detained about two weeks ago in the northeastern state of Assam.

Indian child marriage crackdown

Nureja Khatun, 19, holding her 6 months old baby, requests police to release her husband Akbor Ali, sitting in police van as they take him to court, in Morigaon district of Indian northeastern state of Assam, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

She is devastated by the move, as are hundreds of other women who got married before turning 18 and are similar to her. Many women, who are now adults, claim that the dissolution of their families has left them furious and powerless.

Khatun relied on Ali to look after her; the two eloped in 2021 when she was just 17 years old. Ali, a laborer who made $400 per day ($5), supported his wife and their little daughter, who was born six months ago.

“No one is now feeding us. I’m not sure if my family will make it,” Khatun remarked.

In a state with a population of 35 million people, where many child marriages go undetected, strict procedures are being implemented.

The National Crime Records Bureau reports that just 155 child marriages in Assam were registered in 2021 and 138 in 2020.

In India, men must be 21, and women must be 18 before getting married. In every corner of the nation, child marriages are said to be caused by poverty, a lack of education, and social norms and customs, especially in rural areas.

Indian child marriage crackdown 4

A girl stands in her shanty home on the outskirts of Guwahati, India, Friday, Feb. 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

According to UNICEF estimates, India is home to the world’s biggest number of child brides, making up a third of the total, with at least 1.5 million girls under 18 getting married there annually.

According to data from India’s National Health Family Survey, the age group is involved in more than 31% of weddings registered in Assam.

The state administration adopted a resolution last month pledging to end child marriage forever by 2026.

According to AVY Krishna, the additional director general of police for Assam, adolescent pregnancies might reach 26% in some districts.

He claimed that the mortality rates have been rather high due to these child weddings, which have turned into a social evil.

The punitive move has come under fire from attorneys and activists, even though the arrests have caused enormous pain among families and led to women sobbing outside police stations around the state.

Indian child marriage crackdown 5

A girl child plays with a doll sitting under a tree at a roadside, in Guwahati, in the Indian northeastern state of Assam, Friday, Feb. 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

Several males are facing charges under India’s anti-child marriage law, which carries a two-year prison sentence, for allegedly marrying girls between the ages of 14 and 18.

Stricter legislation that guards children against sexual offenses has been utilized to punish other men who are accused of marrying girls who are younger than 14.

With prison penalties ranging from seven years to life, this offense is not subject to bail.

The High Court in Guwahati, the state’s capital, has questioned the arrests, despite the Assam police’s defense that their conduct was allowed under both statutes.

On Tuesday, it stated, “At this time, the court believes that these are not subjects for custodial interrogation.

Others said that the government should use social initiatives and education to increase awareness rather than making arrests. Anshuman Bora, a senior attorney, stated that arrests should only be used as a last resort by Supreme Court rules.

Indian child marriage crackdown 1

Nureja Khatun, 19, right, brings food for her mother in law in their shanty home, in Morigaon district of Indian northeastern state of Assam, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023.(AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

“They decide to start making mass arrests to address the issue out of the blue. To stop it, they should instead concentrate on social changes.”

Activists and political rivals in the state have accused the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is now in power in Assam and is led by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, of making arrests in districts and locations where many of the state’s Muslims who speak Bengali reside.

Opponents claim that the group, which has migrated over time from the nearby country of Bangladesh, has frequently been ignored by authorities.

They specifically point to the state’s problematic citizenship registry, which they claim discriminated against Muslims.

Hasina Ahmed, an attorney and social activist, stated, “we have found that members of all religions have been implicated in child weddings.” “We cannot pass such quick judgment on communities.

Indian child marriage crackdown 2

Radha Rani Mondal, 50, shows the photograph of her son, who was arrested by police in Morigaon district of Indian northeastern state of Assam, Friday, Feb. 10, 2023 (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

Caste and religion must not be visible. We must concentrate on the investigations and take legal action to resolve the problems.

Hundreds of Hindu men, according to officials, have also been detained, despite denials of the claims.

Among Assam’s communities, according to Ahmed, the arrests are causing more harm than good.

Most afflicted spouses came from low-income families where their husbands were the only wage earners, illiterate, and unemployed.

“From today, the government might have imposed penalties on those who engaged in the activity. The woman argued that it is inappropriate to punish people now for past child marriages.

Indian child marriage crackdown 3

Nureja Khatun, 19, holding her 6 months old baby, waits outside a police station to catch the glimpse of her husband Akbor Ali, in Morigaon district of Indian northeastern state of Assam, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

Although 50-year-old Radha Rani Mondal is adamant about getting her son out of jail, she claims she lacks the resources and legal expertise necessary to do it.

Her 17-year-old daughter-in-law is pregnant, and her 20-year-old son was arrested on February 4. She paid a lawyer she owes an additional 20,000 rupees ($250) with her final 500 rupees ($6).

“I’ve been on an empty stomach to the lawyer’s office and the police station daily.

I need to set aside money for legal fees while still managing my household and to care for my daughter-in-law. It is quite challenging. “I feel powerless,” she sobbed.


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Alishba Waris is an independent journalist working for CTN News. She brings a wealth of experience and a keen eye for detail to her reporting. With a knack for uncovering the truth, Waris isn't afraid to ask tough questions and hold those in power accountable. Her writing is clear, concise, and cuts through the noise, delivering the facts readers need to stay informed. Waris's dedication to ethical journalism shines through in her hard-hitting yet fair coverage of important issues.

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