Over 4,000 cases have been registered as part of the campaign against under-aged marriages in Assam, chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Thursday.
In a tweet, Sarma reiterated the resolve to end child marriages and said 4004 cases have been registered and more were likely. Sarma said action will begin from Friday while requesting all to cooperate.
On January 23, the Assam Cabinet approved a crackdown on child marriages as the National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5) carried out between 2019 and 2020 showed that percentage of women aged between 20-24 married before the legal age of 18 in the state was 31.8%, compared to the national figure of 23.3%.
NFHS-5 showed 11.7% of married women aged between 15-19 years were mothers or pregnant during the period of the survey compared to 6.8% nationally.
According to the NFHS-4 carried out in 2015 and 2016, 30.8% of marriages in Assam involved children against the national figure of 26.8%. As many as 13.6% of the married women in Assam aged between 15-19 were mothers or pregnant compared to 7.9% nationally, it said.
Sarma said thousands of people, who conducted child marriages or married under-aged, would be arrested under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act. “Those who married children under 14 and also forced them to become mothers would be booked under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.”
The state Cabinet last month decided to appoint secretaries of village panchayats as child marriage prohibition officers under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act. If any child marriages take place in a village, the officer will have to lodge a police complaint.
A police officer said a survey was conducted since December last year to find out the number of child marriages. The present action is a follow-up of that survey and subsequent Cabinet decision.
Hojai police superintendent Barun Purkayastha said they have registered cases under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act and POCSO Act against people who married children in the past three years. “Their arrests and also those who conducted these marriages will begin in the next few days.”
The highest number of such cases (370) has been lodged in Dhubri followed by Hojai (255).