November 13, 2019
Child Welfare Committee acts on complaints of child marriage without delay. A member talks about the various circumstances in which these marriages take place.
The Child Welfare Committee (CWC), a five member panel, appointed by the Department of Social Defence in November 2018 works for the safeguard of all children below 18 years in Tamil Nadu. Child marriage, often between a young girl and an adult man, is a rising concern in Coimbatore district. How does CWC deal with this?
A N Meenakshi, a member of CWC Coimbatore tells The Covai Post, “Usually child marriages are reported to the toll free 1098 Childline number either by neighbours or relatives who see the preparations or the actual ceremony. Immediately Childline will rush to the spot, stop the marriage and bring the girl to us after confirming her age and other details.
“We then take charge of the child, counsel the parents and will send her back only after they promise to cancel the marriage and wait until she is 18 years old. We insist on completion of 18 years and the start of nineteenth year as parents twist rules like that. However, if we feel that the parents may backtrack we will retain the child with us until adulthood and then send her back.”
She added that some parents would promise to give the child education or vocational training to take her back. “Then they have to submit proof of admission and other certificates. Even then CWC will monitor that child through regular monthly visits until she completes 18 years. After that she is free to marry the person of her choice,” says Meenakshi.
In some cases, the bride, probably a girl forced to drop out of school, will call 1098. Again the CWC will follow the same method apply, rescue the child and counsel the family. Meenakshi claimed that Coimbatore has seen many child marriages, at least two being reported to CWC every week.
“Some girls boldly elope and after being caught and sent to us we would find out that she befriended the boy through cell phone chat sites. This has become very common and girls of 13,14 and 15 years have attempted this. They don’t fear leaving the safety of their family to elope with an unknown boy. Many single mothers also get their girls married to elderly uncles or cousins fearing the child may elope,” she says.
Such mothers would tell CWC that they did it for the safety and security of their girl. “Otherwise they will pretend that it is only an engagement, but usually such mothers will even marry off their girl as second wives. Our government conducts lots of classes and awareness programmes. That is why girls are alert and call 1098, but we feel that rural areas need more knowledge about this. CWC is working towards that,” she concludes.
The 1098 Childline India is a toll free number under the Ministry of Women and Child Development established in 1998-99 and is accessible all over India. Any case of illegal activity involving children can be reported to this number.