Bhubaneswar, Oct 24 (LocalWire): With the abhorrent practice of child marriage still prevalent in several parts of the state, Odisha government has drawn up a Strategic Action Plan (SAP) to address this social malaise and the vulnerability of the girl child.
The department of Women and Child Development and Mission Shakti launched a SAP with support from United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said Tukuni Sahu, minister, department of women & child development and Mission Shakti, here today.
The prevalence of child marriage has reduced substantially but the pace of reduction has to be accelerated to ensure that Odisha is child-marriage free by 2030, she said.
The SAP is a comprehensive and time-bound approach to accelerate actions to deal with the complexities of ending child marriage and is expected to serve as a ‘multi-layered and multi-sectoral intervention,’ that aims at eliminating child marriage.
Actions outlined in the strategic focus areas would be implemented with strong links among all stakeholders and coordination across all tiers of governance, synergistic and coordinated efforts by multiple departments would be the key to achieving the goal set to end child marriage, she said.
As many as 16 districts, Malkangiri, Mayurbhanj, Nabrangpur, Nayagarh, Koraput, Rayagada, Dhenkanal, Ganjam, Gajapati, Keonjhar, Balasore, Deogarh, Boudh, Subarnapur, Kandhamal and Angul, are identified as regions where the evil practice rears its ugly head from time to time.
Besides the major urban centres Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Berhampur, Sambalpur and Rourkela, are also witnessing child marriages, according to findings by government agencies.
The prevalence of child marriages among girls in Odisha was reported to be 21.3 percent against a national average of 26.8, whereas for boys it is only 11% against the national average of 20.3 percent (NFHS-4, 2015-16).
Odisha witnessed a decline of nearly 16 and 11 percentage points (between NFHS 2005-06 and 2015-16), for girls and boys marrying before the legal ages of 18 and 21 years, respectively.
Still one in five women aged 20-24 years were married by the age of 18 in Odisha.
Child marriage has a significant negative impact on an individual’s physical, mental, emotional and social development and on education and economic opportunities.
Both girls and boys are affected by child marriage, but girls are affected in much larger numbers and with greater intensity.
The government, civil society, international bodies and communities and families needs to be on proactive mode to stop this social evil which is strongly embedded in social practices, the minister said.
Poverty coupled with ignorance of illiterate parents has contributed for the prevalence of this illegal practice. Ironically majority of parents are unaware of legal provisions of Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, which is a cognizable offence.
Incidentally, Odisha is ranked 13th in the list with 21.3 per cent child marriages as per a central report.
The number of child marriages in Malkangiri, Nabarangpur, Mayurbhanj, Koraput, Rayagada, Nayagarh, Ganjam and Keonjhar are more than the national average of 26.8 per cent.