71% of girls in UP are married as minors? UNICEF and UP Police Mahila Samman Prakoshth hold Colloquium to fight Child Marriage in Uttar Pradesh

by Sutapa Sanyal

Child Marriage remain appallingly common in Uttar Pradesh. As per a new report by AALI, 70% of women in UP are still married when they are minors.

Spoke at Dr Ram Manohar Lohia National Law University, about the ways that we at UP Police Mahila Samman Prakoshth and UNICEF are trying to combat child marriage.

AALI, UP State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (UPSCPCR), UP Mahila Samman Prakosht and UNICEF proposed the role of society, policing, education, better parenting and spreading legal awareness as the steps ahead.

News Coverage of the colloquium:

Hindustan Times

Indiatimes

Times of India

Here is a report on the Child Marriage Colloquium:

State Colloquium to Accelerate Action for Prevention of Child Marriage in Uttar Pradesh
Background
Child marriage, basically a marriage between a girl child and a boy child and who had not attained the legal age of marriage, where a girl and a boy is forced into a relationship of which they are not aware of. The biggest sufferer in a child marriage is the girl child who is not only physically but also mentally exploited. Child Marriage is a burning issue especially in India. If we go further the maximum number of child marriages takes place in the state of Uttar Pradesh. If one goes with the data in every two sec a girl and boy is pushed into this hell that means by the time this report is being typed thousands of marriage would have taken place. Question arises whether after 70 year of independence has we progressed or not. The condition of women in India is still miserable.
Association for Advocacy and Legal Initiatives (AALI) in Collaboration with Uttar Pradesh State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Uttar Pradesh Police Mahila Samman Prakosht, with the support of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) organized a colloquium on Accelerated Action for Prevention of Child marriage in Uttar Pradesh on Friday at. Ram Manohar Lohia, National Law University, Lucknow.
Summary of the Colloquium:
The event provided a common platform to raise joint voice against child marriage, to discuss and share about the inter linkages between child marriage, gender inequality and girl and women’s rights, issue of consent and decision making for girls, legal ambiguities, gap and challenges in law enforcement, legal and practical strategies to redress the issue.

The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 makes it illegal for girls to marry under 18 years and for boys under 21 years. It is a non-cognizable and non-bailable offence with a fine up to Rs 100,000, or up to two years of imprisonment, or both. In this Colloquium basically the reason behind the child marriages and the solutions as to how this problem could be solved were discussed by the eminent people. As mentioned earlier child marriage is burning issue in India but that does not mean steps had not been taken.
Speakers in the first panel, comprising statutory bodies and experts discussed “child marriage – a grave human rights violation. While the second panel members talked on state initiative to address the violation and future initiatives shared the measures taken by the state and statutory bodies to effectively address the violation and uphold the rights of the child. The third panel on mass mobilisation and changing social norms was represented by members of civil Society and media and felt that concerted attention, innovative approaches, resource and funding are the critical need of the hour.
Panel 1
Gurdeep Singh, Vice Chancellor of Ram Manohar Lohiya highlighted India is a signatory in many international Conventions like UN Convention On The Rights Of Children, Convention Of Discrimination Against Women but the irony is this that despite of being a signatory not much change could be seen He also Stated a loophole in the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 that this act doesn’t makes the Child marriage void it only says that marriage is voidable. So according to him this is the basic drawback which basically encourages the people to do such things and at the same time violates the rights of people like right to life and equality.
Now the question arises what is the basic reason behind the child marriage.

Sutapa sanyal, DGP Of UP Police Mahila Samman Prakosth enumerated several reasons behind it, the main reason stated by her was poverty ,dowry pressure. Cope up with the Social condition, value of virginity, gender norms. She also comprehensively suggested the solutions in order to eradicate the problem. The first and the foremost she stated was that nothing could be done in isolation that means not one department can do this work all the departments like the police department, NGOs, media everybody has to work together then only a solution could be possible. Then she also suggested with help of the data she showed that where there is higher literacy rate lesser child marriages had taken place . So education is the best tool to eradicate this problem. The suggestion given was that one should give disincentives and incentives. Incentives should be given to people who don’t promote this concept of child marriage and disincentives should be given to those who encourages this concept. The most important thing which she highlighted was that one has to come out of the state of denial. One should not think that other should do it and what difference would it make if I will do it .

She stated that one could make a lot of difference .After all little drops of water fills the pot.She also talked about the programs taken by Mahila Samman Prakosth like Rubaru, NavChetna , Saathietc.She also said while going through the data she came across one thing that Bijnor have the lowest rate of child marriage so she suggested that one should deeply go through this and should find out the reason so that the same things could be incorporated in other places too.

“The joy of enjoying their innocent childhood should not be snatched away from these girls and they should not be burdened with the responsibility of motherhood from that very early childhood,” said Sutapa Sanyal, Director general, UP Police Mahila Samman Prakosht.

Panel 2
Another worth pondering over suggestion was given by the Secretary Uttar Pradesh of Backward classes . Literacy as stated earlier could eradicate this concept of Child marriage he said that all the acts related to it ,and consequences of child marriage should be included in the school books. As the basic problem is that people lack awareness and by including it in the school books will make them aware. He also stated that if one marriage is stopped by the intervention of police then it becomes a lesson for other not to do the same and this tool of fear is very effective and should be used.
Many initiatives have been taken by various NGOs as well .One of the important initiative is taken by Study Hall Foundation. Study Hall foundation started a school called Prerna school where they educate the students from the marginalized sections of the society .They also makes sure that no child marriage takes place before the child completes his schooling .In order to ensure this doesn’t happen They make the parents of the child sign a bond stating that they will not marry their daughter or son before he or she completes his schooling. In fact they also give them incentive of 5000 after their child completes his or her schooling.
Jyotsna Sharma from State legal Authorities also said that the children of child marriage should not be considered as the accused but the victims and there are many government schemes which are being run by the government but the victims of child marriage are not included in these schemes. They should be included in these schemes.
Joint Director Of Secondary Education Mr .Vivek Nautiyal made the people aware about the Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan and Right To Free And Compulsory Education .He also told about the PILOT PROJECT where they try to bring back the drop out students back to school

and he also told that his department has brought back at least 98 % of students. He also said that their department had also started a program called LIFE SKILL where girls are made aware of the various kinds of abuses .
Now the question arises what after class 12 still the child had not attained the age of marriage .For this a solution was given by Mrs .Sunita Yadav from social welfare department .She told her department runs coaching classes for free of cost for these students so that they could achieve their dreams.
Panel 3
The media also play a very crucial role in this as stated by Asfaq Ahmad, he stated from Inqualab newspaper and told that there was case in Kushinagar a village child marriage was taking place the moment the media reached there the villagers themselves stopped the marriage and also thrashed the parents of those kids. He said that media need to cover many such cases as this a very good means of creating a fear as well as awareness among people. He also stated media need to be sensitized and they should also be made to realize there power and they should cover the content of this sort also.
Ms Renu Mishra, executive director, AALI, who moderated the discussions of the panels said that through the colloquium they have attempted to bring on a common platform members from statutory commissions like State Women’s Commission (SWC), Backward classes Commission State Department of Women and Child Development (SDWCD), state Legal Services Authority NIPCCD, department of secondary education, legal experts, academicians, medical practitioners, police, human rights defenders, concerned organizations to facilitate a dialogue. She said that raising voice against this practice will also help focus society attention and lead them to form a movement against child marriage.

About Uttar Pradesh Police Mahila Samman Prakosht (UPPMSP)

The U.P. Police Mahila Samman Prakosht (MSP), an initiative of the UP Police to serve the 100+ million women who live in Uttar Pradesh, was officially started in September 2014.
It has designed and implemented a bouquet of nine discrete and yet inter-connected programs based on the 3P model and have optimally leveraged ICT and human resources to evolve a holistic framework of Gender sensitive Community Policing for ending gender based discrimination in its various formats.

The work of MSP is directed towards generating awareness, creating a synergy and capacity building for women empowerment, and is also interspersed with direct and indirect action with help of local police and civil society members.

Uttar Pradesh Police Mahila Samman Prakoshth
64 B, Mahanagar, Lucknow – 226006
Phone: 9454401149
Email: uppmsp-up@gov.in

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