Child marriage and child abuse violate girls’ rights to health, education and opportunity. They exposes girls to violence throughout their lives and traps them in a cycle of poverty. There have been constant effort by the government, NGOs and individuals to eradicate brutal violence against girls.
A public consultation on implementation of existing laws and evolving new systems to prevent child marriages and child abuse was organised by CETROC-K (Consortium for Ensuring the Rights of the Child – Karnataka) and Karnataka State Force for Prevention of Child Marriage and Child Abuse. on Monday.
Chief Guests at the event, V.S. Ugrappa, MLC and Chairman, Committee on Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences; and Kripa Amar Alva, Chairperson, Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR); ensuring the rights of the child in the event, highlighted the difficulties officers faced at the grassroots level while tackling cases of child abuse and child marriage.
The event held with an objective of preventing child marriages, child abuse and sexual exploitation of children in four districts of Karnataka, has brought six organisations under one roof, Vidyaniketan, QWARDIS, Manush, People’s Movement for Self Reliance (PMSR), Child Rights Trust (CRT) and CIVIC Bangalore which are active in providing training, advocacy and lobbying support.
Child marriage is practised across India and the states with the highest prevalence of child marriage (50 per cent and above) are Bihar, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka
“ The major reason for child marriages is dependency and that is leading to a rise in the number of school drop-outs,” says Mr Raghavendra, President, CWC, Bellary.
According to the National Family Health Survey 2015-16, one in every four women in the age group of 20-24 was found to have been married before turning 18. The survey found that the overall percentage of underage marriages among women in the 20-24 age group was 23.2. The corresponding percentage for urban women was 17.9 and rural women 27%.
The member organisations of CETROC-K have identified the taluks which have recorded high incidences of child marriage and child abuse. Kollegal taluk in Chamarajanagar district, Bagepalli taluk in Chikkaballapur district, Hoskote in Bangalore Rural district and Anekal taluk in Bangalore Urban district are the ”hotspots”.
CIVIC Bangalore from CETROC-K has highlighted the glaring differences in the statistics released by the Department of Women and Child Development and grassroots organisations on the cases related to child marriage in Chamarajnagar. But the response to an RTI query given by the department for the same period stated that no cases had been e recorded in the district.
Child marriage is also seen as a form of trafficking of children. KSCPCR has found that most of the child marriages are from the Banjara community, nomadic relative of Gujjar in Rajasthan. This is more prelevant in Belagavi, Dharwad and many other districts of Karnataka. Minor girls are married to men as old as 70 years and are subjected to physical and sexual abuse. After a year, these minor girls are sold into the flesh trade
A member of CWC, Vishala Sharma said, “while there are some positive responses from the authorities either to prevent the marriage or to file complaints, it is largely known that responses to several child marriage incidents are not appropriate.”
He said, “the lodging of complaints and response to them is not quick enough to mobilise the CMPO officials to stall the planned child marriage. Often, after giving an undertaking that they will not conduct the marriage, parents and elders in the community conduct the wedding in a temple or at home and consummate it on the same day.”
”Ssexual exploitation of children is one of the worst forms of child abuse.” said Ms. Kathyayini, Executive Trustee, CIVIC Bangalore. According to a National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report, in the year 2015, about 8800 cases of child rape were registered under the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
There are more than 70 cases of child sex abuse filed in various police stations in Bengaluru and they are in various stages of trial in the sessions court. As on date, more than 25 months have passed and the cases are still pending in court even though the POCSO Act explicitly stipulates a six-month deadline for adjudication of cases.
In 2013, 10 special courts were established in Karnataka. A study by Centre for Law and Policy Research (CLPR), Bangalore, on the functioning of special courts revealed that of the 107 cases 89 resulted in acquittal. More than 80 percent of acquittals were due to witnesses or the complainant turning hostile. The conviction rate of child rape cases in the state of Karnataka is less than 6 percent.
Mr. Sharanappa, member of Childline team, said, “Most of the child victims were unable to access the compensation from the Victim Compensation Fund and other schemes under (Section 357 a of Cr. Pc. ) for want of a court order.”
Ms. Saroja, social activist from Magadi, said, “Life skills should be given to all the children, and not only women but also men should be given protection as well as education, as some cases state that owing to family pressure the children are helpless and do what they are asked to do. Right education can change this mindset.”