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Anuja Jaiswal,TNN | Jan 23, 2014, 01.19 AM IST
RAIPUR: When it comes to child marriages, males outnumber women in Chhattisgarh. 10.4% of males tie the knot before attaining 21 years, the legal age for marriage, as compared to 4.7% from opposite sex.
The latest annual Health Survey Report (2011-12) said, 16 districts surveyed in Chhattisgarh including tribal dominated areas recorded a higher number of male child marriages vis-a-vis females. Kawardha reported 27.1% male child as against 8.7% females, Sarguja (21% to 9.3%), Koriya (18.1% and 9%) , Dantewada (15.1%; 5.1%), Jashpur (14.2%; 9.4%) of male and females respectively.
Incidentally, Chhattisgarh fares much better in child marriages than most of the eight socio-economically backward states in the country — dubbed as Empowered Action Group (EAG) states. Kawardha district in Chhattisgarh has the worst record with 27.1% males and 8.7% females getting married before the legal age of 21 and 18 years.
The report states Odisha and Uttrakhand fare better than Chhattisgarh, while the other EAG states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have a higher number of child marriages.
Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006, defines – "child" as a person who, if a male, has not completed 21 years of age, and if a female, has not completed 18 years.
Data also shows that compared to previous years, child marriages have come down in the state. In last report, 11% male and 6% females married under the legal age. Though the decline is only marginal, Chhattisgarh can, however, draw solace from the fact that it has fared much better than its parent state of Madhya Pradesh where 18.3% male and 10.4% females are subjected to child marriage.
According to a senior official in women and child welfare department, majority of child marriages still happen in tribal areas where traditions and rudimentary customs still prevail. "Many still consider that marrying their son at the age of 20 makes no difference even if illegal", he said adding that the AHS report is based on a sample survey of 16 districts and hence the overall percentage in the state would be much lower.
Attributing the decline in child marriages in the state to the increased levels of awareness among people due to extensive campaigns undertaken by the government, a senior official said more needs to be done as states of Odisha and Uttarakhand have a better track record. The figure of underage male and female weddings in Odisha is 5.4% and 4.6 % only. In Uttarakhand, only 5.5% males and 2.3% females got married under their legal age.