Guwahati: Dismissing the myth that child marriage was a part of a particular community or religion, an Assam police finding has revealed that child marriages were being conducted across the state. On Thursday, chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma shared the official numbers of child marriages across 36 police districts of the state in which Dhubri topped the chart with over 350 child marriages.
Though the chief minister did not mention any time frame citing the year or time period between when these cases were recorded, he said that a total of 4004 cases of child marriages were registered in these police districts.
Taking to the tweeter, the chief minister on Thursday said, “Assam government is firm in its resolve to end the menace of child marriage in the state. So far Assam police have registered 4,004 cases across the state and more police action is likely in days ahead. Action on the cases will begin starting February 3. I request all to cooperate.”
Earlier, Sarma directed the state police to launch a massive crackdown against child marriages. “Marrying a minor girl is not only illegal but it also violates the basic rights of a girl child as well as it’s highly risky for them health-wise. All the husbands of such minor girls will be put behind bars and will be slapped with charges under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act,” he said.
According to the official statistics, the total number of cases against child marriage registered in the police districts were-Bajali 132, Baksa 153, Barpeta 81, Biswanath 98, Bongaigaon 123, Cachar 35, Charaideo 78, Chirrang 54, Guwahati Commissionerate 192, Darrang 125, Dhemaji 101, Dhubri 370, Dibrugarh 75, Dima Hasao 24, Goalpara 157, Golaghat 62, Hailakandi 1, Hamren 15, Hojai 255, Jorhat 25, Kamrup 80, Karbi-Anglong 126, Karimganj 92, Kokrajhar 204, Lakhimpur 32, Majuli 44, Morigaon 224, Nagaon 113, Nalbari 171, Sadiya 85, Sivsagar 54, Sonitpur 60, South Salmara 145, Tamulpur 110, Tinsukia 73 and Udalguri 235.
The figures even disclosed that the capital city was also not out of the trend of child marriages. At least 192 cases of child marriage were registered in the Guwahati police commissionerate too.
Sarma said, “This operation against child marriage is not targeted to any particular community or religion. It’s a crackdown against the ill menace and to protect our girl child.”
The state government’s decision came after an official survey conducted by the health department revealed shocking statistics that in Assam, an average of 31 percent of girls were married off by their families before the legal marriage age of 18 for women in the country. Nationally, 23.3 percent of women were married off before attaining the age of 18.
“It’s shocking to find out that such huge numbers of minor girls were victims of child marriage. Since any kind of sexual offence against a minor is a crime under POCSO, the state government has deiced to book all the husbands who are responsible for impregnating a girl before 18 under the Act. The punishment for such an offence may lead to life imprisonment,” Sarma said.
As per the official statistics, the teenage pregnancy rate in Assam was recorded at an average of 16.16 percent in 2022-23 with Barpeta district having the maximum rate of 28.30 percent. Similarly, the rate of teen pregnancy was also recorded as very high in Dhubri and South Salmara districts at 26.8 percent and Goalpara at 23.39 percent.