Workshop on Prevention of Child Marriage was held on 8th and 9th November, 2012, at Greenwood Resort, S.G. Highway Ahmedabad. This workshop was organized by the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, Gandhinagar, and UNICEF Gujarat. Mr. R.S. Patel, Director of Social Justice and Empowerment Department and CEO of Gujarat State Child Protection Society and Mr. Lolichan, State Consultant, UNICEF Gujarat has inaugurated the workshop. Legal Officer and Protection Officer – Non Institutional Care from most of DCOUs across the state and Child marriage Prevention Officers from five districts and CHILDLINE Coordinator from Ahmedabad and Rajkot were participated in this workshop.
Child marriage is a social norm that requires effort of multiple stakeholders to address the issue and that the main purpose of the workshop was capacity building of key stakeholder to preventing child marriage in the state. Another aim of this seminar was gaining clarity on the legal framework for preventing child marriage in Gujarat context. And the last but not least purpose was the prepare action plan for preventing child marriage
In initial session, Mr. R.S. Patel, Director of Social Justice and Empowerment Department, Gandhinagar and CEO-GSCPS has given a brief on the historical background of child marriage. He said that it may differ by community but there are so many rituals exist in our society which is at the root of the problem. He also added that if we want to prevent our children from an earlier marriage than we should work with local community leaders and parents. In the same session, Ms. Hemalee Leuva has described Child Rights and given an overview of problems faced by children in Gujarat state. She described that around 47 per cent of children are malnourished and 63 percent of children drop out during their 8 to 12 standard’s studies. She added that Gujarat as state, with 38.7 per cent of women aged 20-24 were married before they were 18 years; however, state fairs better than national average in this regard. However there are certain districts within a state with higher prevalence, such as Banaskantha 55.3%, Patan 54.5 %, Dahod 44.8 %, Baroda 44.4 %, and Kheda 44.4 %.
She then presented that in Gujarat the number of convictions of those charged with committing child marriage is very small. Since the passing of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006, the total number of applications received reporting Child marriage in Gujarat is 1831. But only in 391 cases these kinds of marriage were prevented and just in 21 cases punishment or penalty has been issued. Due to lack of evidence 1064 applications have been rejected and 107 cases are under court hearing and 228 cases are still pending.
In the second session, Ms. Advaita Marathe, Consultant, UNICEF Gujarat presented the key findings of her research on field documentation of child marriage. The documentation was carried out in 5 districts of Gujarat covering 13 blocks and total 29 villages. She presented that child marriages are not limited to the poor, the uneducated and backward castes but it prevails across all classes and castes in Gujarat. The younger daughters in the family are married into family along with the elder girl to save expenditure.
In evening session, Ms. Bharti Ali, Co-Director, Haq: Center for Child Rights, Delhi has given presentation on Child Marriage Prevention Act 2006. She presented that before the commencement of this act, Sharda Act 1929 was existed. She said that this new act is emphasizing on prevention of child marriage, rather than just stop happenings of such incident. If concern person wants to prevent child marriage, then he should follow a few steps. Firstly, he should inform to Child Marriage Prevention Officer of the particular district. After getting information from people, CMPO will send a fax or email to police to help prevent child marriage. Then he should ask to court in written to issue stay order to stop such happening. A person should keep in mind that this stay order will be for only particular places. So if he has doubts that couple can marry some other place than it is indeed that we should ask to court to issue stay order for the whole district or large geographical area. After this kind of stay order of court, if marriage of that couple happens in banning area, then it’s totally illegal.
In the last session, Participants were divided into five groups to work out on strategy for cause. An action plan for preventing child marriage in Gujarat has been prepared. The seminar ended with an appreciation for valuable guidance provided by resource persons, and all stakeholders for their active participation.
This information was shared by Amrat Chaudhari, Ahmedabad based Freelance Social Worker, previously working as City Coordinator at Ahmedabad CHILDLINE 1098 (National 24 X 7 hours toll free help line for children in need of care and protection). Amrat can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org