96% child marriage cases pending trial across India by 2021: Rights body


: Even as the conviction rate in child marriage cases in India was “extremely poor” at 10%, at least 96% such cases were pending trial across the country by the end of 2021, according to the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF), which held a state-level consultation with Haryana’s women and child development department on Tuesday to motivate stakeholders to intensify their fight against the menace.

Prompted by chilling statistics such as a total 1,49,404 crimes (409 cases a day) against children recorded in 2021 in India, including 5,700 (4%) from Haryana, the KSCF held the consultation ahead of its “child marriage free India” campaign.

At the forefront of this nation- wide movement to be launched on October 16 will be 50,000 women of 10,000 villages who will take a vow to fight the menace of child marriage which, the KSCF said remains grossly underreported due to numerous reasons.

For example, the number of child marriage victims in Haryana rose from 20 in 2019 to 33 in 2020. Last year also, the state recorded only 33 cases of child marriage out of the 1,062 cases across the country.

“We have identified certain pockets of Haryana, including areas bordering Rajasthan district, where the child marriage is prevalent. The objective of state-level consultation is to motivate the stakeholders to intensify their fight against child marriage and our campaign will focus more in the identified areas of the state,” said Ravi Kant, country head, access to justice programme, KSCF-US, pointing out that Haryana is one of the few states where child marriage act was recently amended and made more stringent.

Haryana was the 17th state where the KSCF held the state-level consultation, the objective of which is to reduce the number of child marriages of girls from 23.3% to 10% by 2025. The KSCF functionaries said the state-level consultations are expected to act as the driving force for the national-level campaign to achieve the ambitious objective “child marriage-free India”.

During the state-level consultation, the key points discussed were appointment of child marriage prohibition officer (CMPO), mandatory FIR registration in cases of child marriage and giving incentive to parents to motivate them to not marry their under-age children.

It was pointed out that as per the National Family Health Survey-V (NFHS 2019-21), nationally, 23.3% women between the age group of 20-24 were married-off before attaining the age of 18 and that as per NCRB-2021 report, at least 34 minor girls were kidnapped every day in 2021 to be compelled into marriage.

CENSUS 2011: 2.5 Lakh children married

According to the data KSCF has shared, quoting National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) and the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), as per the Census-2011, in Haryana, 2.5 lakh children were married off before attaining the legal age of marriage, which constituted about 2% of all married children in the country.

“However, NCRB data suggests that only 86 cases under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act were registered during 2019-21 (in Haryana),” said the KSCF, adding the conviction rate in child marriage cases in India is “extremely poor at 10%”— the lowest conviction rate of all types of crimes committed against children.

In 2019, 2020 and 2021, the number of cases which ended with conviction was 12 (out of 1,640), six (out of 2,092) and 10 (out of 2,865) respectively. At the end of 2021, a mounting 96% child marriage cases in the country were pending trial (2,761 cases pending out of 2,865 cases).

Teenage pregnancies

The KSCF data says that teenage pregnancy, primarily a consequence of child marriage, has come down from 7.9% in 2015-16 to 6.8% in 2019-21 at the all-India level. The corresponding decrease in Haryana has been from 5.8% to 3.9%.

In Haryana, of the total victims of trafficking, about 47% (21 out of 45) were children as compared to 44% (2,877 out of 6,533) at the national level in 2021. The total number of victims of child trafficking in Haryana increased from 6 in 2019 (three girls and as many boys) to 21 (20 girls and 1 boy) in 2021. The girls constituted 95% of the total trafficked children in 2021 as against the national average of 45%.

However, the total number of missing children in the state decreased by 17% during 2019-21 (from 2,815 in 2019 to 2,343 in 2021) as compared to a 6% increase at the all-India level (from 73,138 in 2019 to 77,535 in 2021).

At the end of January 2022, a total of 226,728 POCSO cases were pending trial in the country of which 4,892 cases were from Haryana, as per the data.

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