More than 180 complaints of child marriages were received in Mysuru district between April and October this year, making it among the highest in the State.
Mysuru had the dubious distinction of standing second in the State during the previous year when as many as 301 child marriages or complaints of impending marriages were reported between April 2020 and March 2021.
The figures are based on the number of complaints received by the Childline 1098 - a helpline ensuring anonymity to the whistleblower - and spot visits by officials based on the tip-off. Ballari with 374 cases topped the list last year.
Deputy Director of Women and Child Welfare Basavaraju said that the department has not let its guard down despite the pandemic and has been conducting awareness camps. “In rural areas announcements are made using the loudspeaker strapped to vehicles besides carrying awareness sessions in schools and the angawadi kendras about the negative impact of child marriages on the girls’’, he added.
The official, however, admitted that the number of cases were high and was being reported with increasing frequency in recent times. But whenever a case is reported then the department files an FIR and initiates legal action against the parents of the minor bride and the groom.
The Rural Literacy and Health Project (RLPH) is the collaborating NGO entrusted with operating Childline 1098 and its staff work 24 x 7 basis to receive calls. “The moment a call or a tip-off is received we inform the Department of Women and Child Welfare, Child Welfare Commission and others and raid the venue. In most cases the wedding is prevented and the parents of both the bride and the groom are forced to give an undertaking that they will not conduct the marriage till the girl attains the legal age’’, said Saraswathi, Director, RLHP.
She said the number of cases were high during the peak of the second wave of the pandemic. Parents assumed the marriages would not draw any attention, in the belief that the government and its staff would be deployed to handle or manage COVID-19.
“In many cases the restrictions that existed during the peak of the pandemic on the number of people who could attend wedding was cited as a reason by the parents for rushing through the marriage as it would bring down the cost’’, said Ms.Saraswathi.
But there is also a growing perception that the increase in general awareness about the negative impact of child marriages and the rise in use of the child helpline number by the girls was resulting in higher detections and more complaints.
“A sizeable number of complaints – about 30 per cent – of child marriage or an impending wedding comes from the girls themselves or their classmates who take advantage of the child helpline and tip us off’’, according to Shashikumar, Coordinator of RLHP.
The cases are from across the district though it is rare in Mysuru city. However, there were high number of cases from Periyapatna bordering Kodagu due to its relative isolation besides socio-economic conditions.