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NEW DELHI: At a time when the government is exploring raising the legal age of marriage, SOS calls to the national helpline (1098) that led to interventions in 14,775 cases related to child marriage during January-July period show that a significant number of children below 16 years remain vulnerable.
While 59% (8,732) of the cases involved children between 16-18 years, a worrisome 38% (5,629) involved children in the age group of 11-15 years. The age-wise data also shows that there were 91 cases involving children in the 6-10 years’ age bracket and 87 cases were of those below five years of age.

During the same period last year, total interventions related to child marriage were higher at 17,181.Data from pre-Covid, lockdown and post-lockdown periods reflect that barring the lockdown period, child marriage cases were up by 17-20% when compared to data from last year. During lockdown, there was an evident decline when compared with last year’s figures for March to May.

Times View

The first law banning child marriage was passed way back in 1929. The prevalence of the regressive practice over 90 years later, despite strengthening the law further intermittently, only highlights how deep rooted the problem is. It also tells us that the best way to end the custom is through stronger social awareness and stricter implementation of a law that is reasonable. Raising the legal age of marriage is unlikely to make a significant difference and might end up criminalizing marriages at ages that most of the world considers legitimate.

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