EMPOWER PEOPLE Blog
Total population of Haryana as per 2011 census is 25,351,462 of which male and female are 13,494,734 and 11,856,728 respectively. In 2001, total population was 21,144,564 in which males were 11,363,953 while females were 9,780,611. The census data shows that Haryana has skewed sex ratio which resulted in increase of girls trafficking from other parts of the country. ―Haryana in North India is already suffering due to skewed sex ratio which has forced many families to purchase brides from states like Bihar and West Bengal(More than Just Bride: Early Child Marriges in Haryana).
Haryana is now also witnessing a rise in child marriages. Prohibition officers and others confirmed an increase in the prevalence of child marriages in these districts. According to National Family Household Survey (NFHS-4,) in rural area of Haryana 18.9 % girls got married below the age of 18 whereas 20.1 % girls are married before attaining 18 years in urban set up of Haryana. Whereas the percentage of married man below age 21 years is 26.9 % in rural areas and 20.1 % in urban areas. (State Fact Sheet , 2015-2016 ). There are many reasons for the prevalence of child marriages in the state like poverty, unemployment, lack of educational opportunity, traditional and social customs, etc.
Besides this, Trafficking and import of girls for the purpose of marriage is a major concern in the state. A large number of trafficked brides are minor at the time of trafficking and marriage. Government data on trafficking on marriage and age of trafficked bride is not available and even didnot collected, however, a few NGOs including EMPOWER PEOPLE learnt through the experience that each village of the state has at an average 15 such women who were trafficked and sold as bride are living. 78% of those were minor at the time of marriage.
Legislation Governing Child Marriage in Haryana
Two key pieces of domestic legislation govern child marriage in Haryana. The most significant is the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 (PCMA‘) that applies across all states except Jammu and Kashmir. The PCMA makes it unlawful for girls to marry under 18 years of age and under 21 for boys. Punishment is up to two years of imprisonment or a fine of up to Rs 100,000 or both, and bail is not permitted.
The other legislation is section 39 of the Haryana Children Act 1974 (HCA) which makes it a punishable offence for those over eighteen years of age and who have the ―actual charge of, or control over, a child, assaults, abandons, exposes or neglects the child or causes or procures him to be assaulted, abandoned, exposed or neglected‖ in a way that leads to the child to undergo unnecessary suffering or experience injury to his or her health. The punishment is up to 6 months imprisonment or a fine of up to 200 rupees, or both. Section 39(3) of the HCA explains that injury to health involves ―injury to, or loss of, sight or hearing and injury to limb or organ of the body and any mental derangement‖ and it will be deemed that the person who is liable for the child by law or is a parent of the child, has neglected the child.
In the matter of trafficking of child bride it is covered under criminal procedure like IPC 366, IPC 370, POCSO with relevant section/subsection. PCMA Sections 12 (a), (b) and (c) categorically states that a child marriage is recognised as invalid and hence null and void especially where means like trafficking or kidnapping are used for the purpose of marriage –
Child Marriage Prohibition mechanism in the State
The Special Cell for Women and Children is an initiative of TISS, which through strategic collaboration with the Police Department, aims at integrating social services with the police system to provide a coordinated, The Special Cells are located within District Police Headquarters and create a space for women who face violence, assisting them in accessing the law. The Special Cells recognize child marriage as a form of violence against women. Combining provisions under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA) and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA), the social workers at the Special Cell are authorised to work as Protection-cum- Prohibition Officers (PPO). There is one PPO in each of the 21 districts of Haryana. Haryana has a state-run scheme for the prevention of child marriage, in the form of the ApniBeti ApnaDhan (My daughter, my wealth) program. This scheme promises the payment of Rs.25,000 to girls, provided they abide by the legal age of marriage in India. Within 15 days of birth, mothers were provided with a sum of Rs500, with the remainder to be paid after the child turned 18.
Lack of Adequate Legislation, Access to it and Effective Government Enforcement
Legislation relevant to child marriage in Haryana, the Child Marriage Act 2006 (India) and the Haryana Children Act 1974 (Haryana) 39 criminalise child marriage and cruelty to children. It is a lack of proper enforcement, reporting and resources that prevents this legislation from being properly implemented and allows child marriage to persist. There is no proper legislation or scheme to make the people aware of child marriages. In many case girls and their parents are not even aware of the PCMA and the legal age of marriage. and even if they are aware about age of girls they are not aware about legal marriageable age of Boys. In many cases it has come to notice that Boys are at age of 18 are considered eligible for marriage.
How Prohibition actually works
As mentioned above there is no proper scheme to prevent child marriage actually exists in the state. And it depends on willingness of Protection-cum- Prohibition Officers who often run with lack of time and load work from cases of domestic violence to official duty. They usually visits different schools and other institution to make children aware about the conséquences of child marriage which usually became a sermon rather than informing about the schemes and legislation against the child marriage. Child-line 1098 and Para legal volunteers of DLSA along with local NGOs usually do community outreach to prevent the child marriage. however it also depends on individual willingness of concern person as most of the time Child-line and DLSA have their own priority. However Community radios are playing good job as they often talks about child marriage and different kind of schemes meant for children particularly girl child.
In my experience Protection-cum- Prohibition Officers always respond to each case. Receiving upon a complaint PPOs usually make visits to the concern house and meet Brides sometimes Grooms to confirm their age. They also check documents and sometimes make visits to schools to verify age of the bride/Groom. Police force often ignore and sometimes even join the villagers to convince PPO and others to don’t disturb marriages as they believe that stoping a marriage will become a social stigma and loss of money to the family. When PPO feels that Girl/Boy is minor they ask guardians to stop the marriage and make written promise that they will not married them off. Rarely they lodge FIRs against the parents or villagers which is not bad in my view. However, in most of case people violate their written promise and married off their children very next day of the intervention.
Trafficking cases are also being present before PPO but mostly Police act upon information. Most interesting thing is that a very few case carry name of accused. In most of case the police usually ignore framing/naming buyer of the girl. Most of rescue happened by police officials from native district/state of the victim. Parents usually prefer rescue of their children and conviction of the man who had trafficked her. In the case where Haryana police were informed by the villagers often register them as found on street. Sometimes they register FIR and sometime just inform the parents of the girl and ask them to brought back their native home. However Women police stations are doing great by registering named FIR.
There is nothing to rehabilitate anyone. There is no specific scheme or government mechanism to rehabilitate or support child marriage victim. Especially if the case is not registered and even a case is registered and Girl (in most of case) is refusing to go back home magistrate sent them to child care institutions which actually a short term shelter.
ICPS scheme needs to offer sponsorship and other kind of assistance to victims/potential victims of Child marriage without any compulsion or mandate to be in school or something like that.
Residential skilling centres should be started in every district under supervision of DCPC (District Child Protection committee). Chairperson Zila Panchayat who is Co-chair of DCPC already have enough fund to make it happen.
Department of education can reserve some scholarship for the victims and potential victims of Child marriage.