At an age when kids should be studying, playing, and enjoying their childhood, they are forced into marriage and are burdened with so many responsibilities. 27% of girls in India are married before their 18th birthday and about 7% are married before the age of 15. According to UNICEF, India has the highest absolute number of child brides in the world – 15,509,000. Child marriage is more common among poor households with many families marrying off their daughters to reduce their economic burden.
Child marriage has been declared as an illegal act in India. The PCMA (Prohibition of Child Marriage Act) Act of 2006 prohibits the marriage of a girl below the age of 18 and for a boy, the age limit is 21 years.
In rural parts, especially Beed district of Maharashtra, child marriage is an old tradition and over the years, several actions and measures have been taken to stop this practice. However, according to the data, during the time of pandemic, a surge in cases has been recorded. According to Indian Express, a statement was given by Beed district’s Superintendent of Police Harsh Poddar, “Till June this year, two cases have been registered under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006.”
One of the major reasons for having a higher rate of child marriage in the district is the fact that the district has a total population of over 30 lakhs and among them 5 lakh people are farm labourers. These labourers have migrated across western Maharashtra and northern Karnataka to work as sugarcane cutter. while the family take away their sons to give a hand in the work, minor girls are left behind with the elder members of the family. This situation creates a spike in cases of molestation by the family members, and to avoid such situations families prefer to marry off their young girls.
A bizarre incident came into limelight when a 13-year-old girl Meena (Name Changed) was strangled by her father who is a poor sugarcane farm labourer. His daughter was married off last year and he was unwilling to let her come back home. The father has been arrested and charged with murder.