Assam Aims for 2030; Holds Consultation to Strategize End of Child Marriage

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Assam’s Crusade against Child Marriage gains further momentum

Assam government, which has initiated an exemplary and unprecedented fight against child marriage, is further intensifying its stance against the social menace and held a state consultation on the same in Guwahati today. The day-long consultation, organised by the Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (ASCPCR) in coordination with Child Marriage Free India and supported by its coalition partner Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), discussed the ways and strategies to make Assam child marriage free by 2030. Speaking on the occasion were Shyamal Prasad Saikia, Chairperson, ASCPCR; Janki Khaound, Member, ASCPCR; Basabi Thakuria, ACS Joint Secretary, Panchayat & Rural Development; Jadumoni Kotoki, Joint Director, Directorate of Health Services, Family Welfare; Preeti Lekha Deka, Deputy Secretary, Women & Child Development; Pranay Bordoloi, Senior Journalist; and Rishi Kant, Executive Director, Kosi Lok Manch.

Highlighting the huge chasm between boys and girls in the state and how agencies such as ASCPCR can monitor this gap, Shyamal Prasad Saikia, Chairperson, ASCPCR, said, “Assam has seen gender discrimination when it comes to girl child, their rights and education. In societies where illiteracy, poverty, and gender discrimination exist, child marriage would continue to pose a challenge. The monitoring agencies such as ASCPCR, need to monitor the adequate implementation of the various laws and schemes by the implementing agency to combat child marriage.”

The speakers discussed the many aspects of child marriage and talked about the importance of converging all stakeholders to address child marriage and child sexual exploitation. Speaking on the occasion, Preeti Lekha Deka, Deputy Secretary, Women & Child Development said, “Besides the convergence of the stakeholders, the other aspects that need our collective focus include reintegration of the girl victims back in the community and empowering them with skills that are relevant and monetizable in the modern times. Besides, there needs to be awareness among adolescents about the risk and consequences of elopement.”

Lauding the recent measures taken by the Himanta Biswa Sarma-led Assam government to combat child marriage, Dhananjay Tingal, Executive Director, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, said, “Assam government’s commitment to end child marriage in the state is exemplary and a role model for the entire nation. The state’s budget of Rs 200 crore to make Assam child marriage free by 2026 and also for rehabilitation of victims is a commendable stride in the right direction, and now this state consultation plays yet another pivotal role in ensuring the effective utilization of allocated funds towards eradicating child marriage. Moreover, the state government’s crackdown and legal action against the perpetrators of child marriage further fuels this fight and ensures success.”

Bachpan Bachao Andolan, also known as the Association for Voluntary Action (AVA), is a coalition partner of Child Marriage Free India.

Notably, on October 16 last year, various state government departments including the Panchayat & Rural Development Department, Department of School Education, Assam State Legal Services Authority and Directorate of Women & Child Protection, Assam government issued circulars directing their respective departments and officials to take part in Child Marriage Free Assam.

Rishi Kant, Executive Director, Kosi Lok Manch also appreciated the state government of Assam and its commitment to reach the most remote parts of Assam to protect children and their rights. “It is highly commendable how the state government is working with such determination to end child marriage. The government’s decision to pay admission incentives to girl students joining Class XI, graduation and post graduation is a huge step towards ensuring education for all children and thus ending child marriage. Such steps are a landmark in this fight.”

The last National Family Health Survey V (NHFS 2019-21) revealed that 31.8 percent of girls in the age group 20-24 were married before the age of 18 in Assam, while the national average stood at 23.3 percent in the same period. However, given the initiatives and steps taken up by the Assam government since early 2023, the state has seen a sea change in the prevalence of child marriage and the scenario is set to change with the incidence of child marriage decreasing drastically.

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