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Child rights protection panel seeks report from Bengal on action taken against child marriages

April 4, 2023

Mita Mukherjee

As many as 6733 child marriage cases had come to the notice of the West Bengal government between April 2021 to September 2022 and the government had stopped 5093 underage girls from getting married in that period, according to a report submitted by the state government to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).

 But in the report, the Bengal government has not clarified why it could not stop the remaining “1630 child marriages” even after having the information about the cases, the NCPCR said.

The NCPCR has wanted to know from the Bengal government whether the “1630” underage girls finally got married and what is their present status. It also asked the government to take “lawful action” against all the “1630” cases in accordance with Prohibition of Child Marriage Act  (PCMA) 2006 and POCSo Act  2012 and submit detailed action taken report to the commission within ten days.

Earlier, on March 16, the NCPCR had sought an explanation from the West Bengal government regarding its failure to comply with the commission’s directions to prevent child marriages in the state.

The commission had summoned the principal secretary of the West Bengal women and child welfare development and social welfare department to the NCPCR office in Delhi on April 3 and submit detailed district-wise report on child marriages in Bengal and the actions taken by the state.      

“ The Commission has examined the data in light of the information shared by Principal Secretary, WCD and SW department, West Bengal. It is discovered that, out of the 4001 cases, a total number of 2939 child marriages were stopped during April 2021 to March 2022, whereas status of action taken in rest of 1062 cases is missing. Similarly, during April 2022 to September 2022, out of the 2732 noticed cases, a total number of 2154 child marriages were stopped and action in rest of 578 cases is not indicated…” Priyank Kanoongo, NCPCR chairperson wrote in  to the Director General of Police of West Bengal on Tuesday.

According to the child marriage prohibition law it is illegal for a girl in India to get married before 18 years age. Men can marry at the age of 21.

But incidents of child marriages had been high in several districts in Bengal for the past few years compared to many other states in the country and according to National Family Health Survey Report V nearly 48 per cent of girls in the state’s rural belts are married off underage.

The number of child marriage cases had shot up in many districts of Bengal after the pandemic, sources in the government said.

According to an official in many cases it has been found that parents are compelled to marry off their underage daughters out of desperation because of being without livelihood and poverty.

Also Read: WB: NCPCR summons state government for poor response on child marriage

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