GUWAHATI- Crackdown on child marriages in Assam has led to over 2,000 arrests so far, but it has also led to protests by women who have criticised police action for arresting their husbands and sons. While they acknowledge efforts to address the issue, they also claim ‘many problems for those already married (with) children, news agency PTI said.
“The figures of arrests in Child Marriage cases have risen. Till this morning, the police had arrested 2,170 persons across the state and it will increase further,” Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) (IGP L&O) Prasanta Kumar Bhuyan, as quoted by ANI, said.
Director General of Assam Police (DGP) GP Singh, while addressing a press conference on Friday, said that 4,074 cases related to child marriage have been registered at different police stations across the state.
Singh said that among the arrested individuals 52 were priests and Qazis involved in child marriages. The highest number of 136 arrests so far has been made in Dhubri where 370 cases have been registered, followed by 110 in Barpeta and 100 in Nagaon.
The DGP said that most of the cases have been registered under different provisions of the POCSO Act and IPC sections and action will be taken as per the law. He said that the arrested persons will be produced before the court.
On the other hand, wives and other female members of the arrested persons have started to protest and question the Assam government’s drive. The women have been questioning the arrest of only men during the crackdown. “Why take only the men? How will we and or our children survive? We have no means of income,” A woman of Majuli district told PTI.
Another woman from the Barpeta district, who did not wish to be named, said her son had eloped with a minor girl. “He made a mistake, but why arrest my husband?” she asked. One more woman from Morigaon said, “My daughter-in-law was 17 when she got married. Now she is 19 and five months pregnant. Who will look after her?”.
Those having married girls below 14 years of age will be booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, and cases under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 will be registered against those who have married girls in the 14-18 years age group. They will be arrested and the 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 (of child marriage) 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,” the CM tweeted on Thursday.
Assam has a high rate of maternal and infant mortality, with child marriage being the primary cause as an average of 31 per cent of marriages registered in the state are at the prohibited age, according to reports of the National Family Health Survey.