2,500 arrested in Assam child marriage crackdown, tense situation amid protests
With more than 4,074 child marriage cases registered in Assam, the Assam Police continued its crackdown amid protests in the state for the third consecutive day and arrested nearly 2,500 people till Sunday for marrying minor girls or for such marriages.
Assam police have so far arrested 2278 persons in connection with the cases related to child marriage across the state & have registered 4074 cases.
— ANI (@ANI) February 5, 2023
The arrests followed the Assam Cabinet’s decision to register men who marry girls below the age of 14 under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act. Those who marry girls between the ages of 14-18 will be prosecuted under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.
Offenders will be arrested and marriages will be declared illegal.
Assam Govt is firm in its resolve to end the menace of child marriage in the state.
So far @assampolice has registered 4,004 cases across the state and more police action is likely in days ahead. Action on the cases will begin starting February 3. I request all to cooperate. pic.twitter.com/JH2GTVLhKJ
— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) February 2, 2023
Chief Minister Himanta Sharma Biswa said that men who marry girls below 14 years of age will be charged under non-bailable cases and those who marry girls between 14 to 16 years will be charged under bailable sections. If the bridegroom is below 14 years of age, he is sent to a reformatory.
Why the decision?
The move, introduced by the Assam cabinet, aims to curb child marriages and early motherhood in the state.
According to the National Family Health Survey, Assam has a high maternal and child mortality rate, with child marriage being the primary cause.
The NFHS noted that an average of 31 per cent of marriages registered in the state are between the restricted age group.
According to the National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5) 2019-21, about 11.7 percent of women in the age group of 15-19 years in Assam were already mothers or pregnant at the time of the survey.
Action so far:
On Saturday, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma asserted that the drive against child marriage will continue till the next assembly elections in 2026. He said that parents involved in under-age marriages are now released through notices.
Over 4,074 cases of child marriage have been registered in the district, while Assam Police has arrested 2,278 minor girls for marrying or arranging child marriages.
Sharma took to his Twitter account to share the data of child marriages registered across the district. Sharma said he has asked the police to show zero tolerance in child marriage cases.
The Assam chief minister said they have identified 8,000 people who married minor girls or facilitated child marriages. Apart from the 2,200 arrested, action will be taken against 3,500 more, Sharma said.
Districts are most affected:
At least 139 people have been arrested in Biswanath, 130 in Barbetta and 126 in Dhubri.
Dhubri recorded the highest number of cases against child marriages at 374, followed by Hojai with 255 and Morigaon with 224. 100 people have been arrested in other districts. Baksa (123) and Bongaikan and Hojai (117 each).
The Assam government may have introduced a measure with the right intention in mind, but it has not gone down well with women in Assam, especially women from Dhubri — the district with the highest number of child marriage cases in the state.
A large number of women took to the streets of Dhubri on Saturday as the police came to arrest their husbands and sons. Women gathered in front of Tamarha police station and demanded the release of their family members.
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi also hit out at the Assam chief minister and asked what would be available to minor girls whose husbands were arrested and jailed. He slammed Sharma for ‘bias’ and said it was an ‘administrative failure’ of the state, the BJP-led government that ruled Assam for six years taking such a step.