What is the context of Assam government’s campaign against child marriage-polygamy?
- The Assam government started a campaign against child marriage-polygamy. It used the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, and Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.
- Additionally, the government will form a committee to handle a part of the Uniform Civil Code regarding polygamy.
- The Chief Minister of Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma, said an expert committee would examine the ban on polygamy. The committee will study the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Act, 1937.
- It will also examine Article 25 of the Constitution of India, in relation to the directive principles of State policy for Uniform Civil Code.
What is the present status of child marriage in Assam?
- According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) for 2019-21, 32 per cent of girls in Assam were married off before attaining the legal age of 18 years.
- Child marriage and teen elopements are frequent in socio-economically marginalized families. They often have less emotional infrastructure and social security.
- The State machinery views these communities as inconsequential in the larger agenda.
- Weaponizing data on child marriages further disrupts the lives of these women and marginalized communities.
What public health concerns require attention to be raised regarding child marriage in Assam?
- Over-reliance on hospital data to track child marriages is dangerous because married girls will be deterred from approaching the healthcare system for reproductive health services. This, in turn, will result in an increase in infant mortality rate (IMR) and chronic childhood illnesses. It will burden the already under-resourced systems and delivery services in the long run.
- The primary reason for rural debt is health expenses, and so communities already at risk will be driven further into desperate situations.
- Rather than breaking the cycle, this approach could result in a tremendous setback to meeting many of the Sustainable Development Goals 2030.
What is the impact of child marriage on adolescent girls?
Research shows that education and financial independence alone have raised the age of marriage, delayed first pregnancy, and reduced family size, thus reducing female mortality and morbidity. In India, one of the main causes of death in adolescent girls is pregnancy-related.
What are the healthcare concerns related to child marriage in Assam?
- Child marriage victims come from the most marginalised sections of society and suffer from several health concerns.
- The Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) portal reports that the teenage pregnancy rate of Assam for 2022 stood at an alarming 16.8 per cent, leading to maternal and infant mortality.
Why has the Assam government’s action been criticized?
- Some argue that child marriage is common in India and that crimes related to child marriage must not be penalized as criminal offences.
- It is also argued that societal problems such as this should not be treated with coercion but through the generation of awareness.
What preventive measures has the Assam government taken?
The State Cabinet passed an order to appoint the Secretary of each Panchayat as a Child Marriage Prohibition Officer under Section 16 of the PCMA and empowered the officer to lodge a police complaint in cases of child marriage occurring under the officer’s village. In Cachar district, a pilot initiative has been launched where village-level meetings called Bal Panchayats will commence to generate awareness among the people about the ill effects of child marriage.
What should be done to tackle child marriage in Assam?
To tackle child marriage in Assam, the government can take several measures, such as:
- generating awareness among the people about the ill effects of child marriage,
- increasing access to education
- improving socio-economic conditions, and
- improving healthcare services in rural areas
Conclusion: The Assam government’s campaign against child marriage and polygamy is a step in the right direction, but generating awareness and working with communities are equally important.
The government should take a holistic approach to prevent child marriage by focusing on education, socio-economic conditions, and healthcare services in addition to legal action.
UPSC CSE Mains Possible Questions
- What are the key provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, and the Prohibition of Child Marriage (PCM) Act, 2006, which have been used by the Assam government in its campaign against child marriage and polygamy? Discuss the challenges faced in implementing these laws effectively.
- Examine the impact of child marriage on adolescent girls in India. How does it affect their health, education, and overall development? What measures can be taken to prevent child marriage and protect the rights of adolescent girls?
- Critically analyze the Assam government’s approach to tackling child marriage and polygamy. Do you think coercive measures such as appointing Child Marriage Prohibition Officers and criminalizing child marriage are effective in addressing these issues? What alternative strategies can be adopted?
- Discuss the healthcare concerns related to child marriage in Assam. How does child marriage contribute to maternal and infant mortality? What steps can be taken to improve the healthcare services in rural areas and prevent the adverse health outcomes associated with child marriage?
- What role can education play in reducing child marriage rates? How can the government ensure that children, especially girls, have access to education? Discuss the measures that can be taken to promote education and empower young girls in marginalized communities.