The recent crackdown against child marriage in Assam is inviting support and concerns. Over 2,000 men have been arrested over a period of 4 days under this crackdown.
- Assam has the highest maternal mortality rate (MMR) in India- i.e. 195 deaths/ 1 lakh live births. Comparatively, the national average is 97.
- Assam lags behind the national average when it comes to institutional delivery according to the National Family Health Survey-5.
- 32% of women get married before the legal minimum age. This is higher than the national average of 25%.
- Close to 20% of women in the 15-49 years age group have never attended school.
- Less than 30% of women in the same age group have completed 10 years of education, compared to the national average of 41%.
- This lack of education restricts women’s representation in the workforce, with only 17% of women employed in non-agricultural occupations. Comparatively, 53% of men employed in these jobs.
- 80% of women were not employed in the 12 months prior to the survey.
- The ownership of land by women in the state has decreased between the NFHS’s 4th and 5th rounds.
- The data supports the relationship between education and women’s reproductive health decisions, with over 20% of uneducated women in the 15-19 age group having started childbearing, compared to only 4% of women with over 12 years of education. copyright©iasexpress.net
- Despite a decrease in infant mortality rate in the past 5 years, 31/1,000 children still die before their 1st birthday.
What are the recent developments?
- Recently, the Assam government launched a crackdown against child marriage on January 23rd. This is in response to the state’s poor record on child and maternal health.
- Men marrying girls below 14 years old are being booked under the POCSO Act, while those marrying 14-18 year old girls are being booked under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act.
- In 4 days, the state Police arrested over 2,000 men for child marriages as part of the state-wide crackdown.
- The highest arrests were in the districts:
- Biswanath (137)
- Dhubri (126)
- Baksa (120)
- Barpeta (114)
- The arrested individuals include 52 religious heads. Like mullahs, kazis and pujaris, who performed the marriages. The state government announced that it will be mainly targeting religious leaders who encourage child marriages
- The government also said that the women whose husbands are arrested will be enrolled in the Orunodoi scheme- the state’s financial assistance program.
Why is this concerning?
- While the locals are reportedly supportive of the intention to curb child marriage, there are concerns over the retrospective arrest of men under the POCSO Act and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act. copyright©iasexpress.net
- It is worried that the crackdowns will disproportionately affect the poor and the minority communities.
- It is feared that such a crack-down will only push the problem under the radar and impede long-term solutions.
What is the way ahead?
- Child marriage is a problem whose roots lie in basic issues:
- Disempowerment of women
- Inadequate healthcare infrastructure
- While the state police is reportedly complementing the crack-down with awareness camps in the police stations’ vicinities, more comprehensive efforts are required to improve the condition of women and children in the state.
- What is urgently required is:
- More investments in healthcare and women’s education
- Widespread campaigns to create awareness of the issues that arise from child marriage, etc.
The recent crackdown against child marriage in Assam by the government has been met with both support and concerns. However, this is not a long-term solution to the problem. Addressing the root causes is crucial for improving the situation in Assam.
Practice Question for Mains:
Comment on Assam government’s recent crackdown on child marriage. Would such crackdowns be effective in solving the issue? (250 words)