Indian Catholic News

Police on high alert to stop child marriages

Akshaya Tritiya, which in Sanskrit means "never diminishing", falls this year on Tuesday and is considered a lucky day, with thousands of weddings taking place.

 
Jaipur: 

Police and social workers were on alert Tuesday across a north Indian state to try to prevent hundreds of child marriages from taking place on an auspicious Hindu day.

Several raids were conducted on villages in the desert state of Rajasthan on the eve of Akshaya Tritiya following tip offs from locals, an official and an activist said.

District collector Kailash Verma said he halted one such wedding in Rajsamand district where an impoverished family was making preparations to marry their 15-year-old daughter.

"I spoke to her. She was not willing to get married and told me that she wanted to carry on her studies but could not gather the courage to oppose her parents," Verma told AFP, adding that 250 marriages were halted last year in his district.

Mangilal Khateek, her father, said he wanted to marry his younger daughter at the same time as his elder one in a bid to save what little money he had.

"I will not marry her (now) after the collector said it was illegal and harmful to her health," he said.

Child marriage is illegal in India but remains common in poor, rural communities in which it is seen as improving the financial security of both families. Rajasthan is among states with the highest number of married children, according to India s census figures.

Akshaya Tritiya, which in Sanskrit means "never diminishing", falls this year on Tuesday and is considered a lucky day, with thousands of weddings taking place.

Police in Rajasthan have been asking villagers to inform on fellow residents planning such celebrations.

"A control room has been set up and people are being encouraged to inform the administration and police about the childmarriages," police superintendent of Jodhpur city, Harendra Kumar, told AFP.

Another raid was conducted in Jaisalmer district after a grandmother alerted authorities to the impending wedding of her 14-year-old granddaughter, activist Ashok Bhati said.

A campaign was held in the lead up to Akshaya Tritiya, with priests, caterers and even wedding tent operators under pressure to say no to families wanting to hire them for child weddings.

"All the 40,000 tent dealers across the state have been asked to refuse to erect tents for child marriages. This initiative will help in demoralising the practice and send a good message," said Ravi Jindal, head of an umbrella group of tent dealers.

Nearly half of all girls in South Asia marry before they turn 18, according to a UNICEF report released last year.

Source: Dunya news

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