Sensitise tribals, says Bombay high court on 15,000 plus child marriages in 3 years | Mumbai News – Times of India

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MUMBAI: Alarmed that there were over 15,000 child marriages in the tribal districts of Maharashtra in the last 3 years, the Bombay high court on Monday said the state government must sensitise the tribal community to protect the rights of girl child.
“The numbers are mind-boggling,” said Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice V G Bisht. They heard a PIL on malnutrition deaths in Melghat and other tribal areas of Maharashtra. On March 14, the state was directed to conduct a survey in districts with a sizable population of tribals to ascertain the number of child marriages.
Advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni submitted a report of a three-member committee that concluded that “child marriage of girls is one of the important reasons for malnutrition and child deaths in the tribal community.” The report gave details of girls below 18 years of age whose marriages were solemnised and who delivered a child as a minor. The AG said “15,000 plus” marriages took place in the last three years. Also, the state successfully prevented 1,541 child marriages. “We got wind of it and stepped in and prohibited the marriages,” he added.
The CJ asked, “Is it possible to impress upon them (tribals) the adverse effects of child marriages? How do you propose to arrest this problem?” The AG replied saying counselling, appeal and assistance from social workers and NGOs who brought the case to court could help address the problem. “No point in using force and arresting people who have done it. They need to be persuaded,” he added. He also said, “Curiously among tribals, boys and girls start living together at an early age which is a modern day concept for us.”
The judges said tribals have their own customs and traditions.. “They must also realise that the girl child has to be protected. There are so many laws on child rights. As part of the judiciary, we can express hope. After all, governance is your job,” said the CJ.
In their order, the judges said, “It is for the government, having regards to the high number of child marriages prevalent, to sensitise the elders in the tribal community and to make them aware of the ill-effects of child marriages and violation of rights of children enumerated in multiple legislations.” Also, it must impress upon the tribal community “to sacrifice age-old customs and traditions so far as the health sector is concerned.”



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