New Delhi: The issue of child marriage should not be restricted to the Women and Child Development Ministry but also needs to be taken up seriously by other ministries such as the Health and Education, Secretary of the Women and Child Development Ministry Nita Chowdhury said on Thursday.
"We have been discussing the issue of child problem since the time of Ram Mohan Roy. Despite efforts we continue to struggle with the huge burden of child marriage. We need to go out at the grassroot level to solve the problem," she said.
Chowdhury said this while addressing a gathering during a day-long National Consultation on Draft Plan of Action on Prevention of Child Marriage held here.
Asserting that the problem of child marriage was related to social mindset and structure, chairperson of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights Kushal Singh said there was a need to change the mindsets to solve the problem.
She further pointed out that many young men are in prison and treated as criminals because they are accused of rape for marrying minors. These kind of negative fallouts also need to be taken into account and legal provisions must also account for the social conditions prevalent, she said.
"A girl child who gets married at a young age is nothing more than a bonded labourer. She looks after the house and gets nothing in return. She is deprived of education and other needs required for her development. We need to come out with a constructive strategy to address the problem," Singh said.
According to the National Family Health Survey III (2005-2006), around 46 percent of women in the age group of 18-29 were married before reaching the legal age of 18.
While the rate of child-marriages reportedly dropped to 46 percent in 2006, in some states child marriage prevalence still exceeds 50 percent.
The highest rates have been found in Bihar (64 pc), Rajasthan (58 pc), Jharkhand (60 pc), Madhya Pradesh (53 pc), Uttar Pradesh (52 pc), Chhattishgarh (51 pc), Andhra Pradesh (56 pc) and West Bengal (53 pc).