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By Express News Service – CHENNAI I Published: 26th March 2014 07:30 AM
Child rights activists at the conference organised by Samakalvi Iyakkam-Tamil Nadu (SKI-TN) | P Ravikumar
In an effort to prevent child marriages in the State, child rights activists have demanded that the scope of the RTE Act 2009 be widened so as to bring children up to 18 years of age under its purview, instead of the present 14 years.
The resolution carrying the demand, which was among six other ones, was drawn at the end of a State-level round table conference on the socio and cultural implications of children organised by Samakalvi Iyakkam-Tamil Nadu (SKI-TN) on Tuesday,Supported by Child Rights and You (CRY), it aimed at ensuring that children are in schools till they attained the age of 18, in order to save them from early marriage.
Representatives from various organisations working for child rights and eradication of violence against children, were part of the conference. T R Parvatha Varthini, managing trustee, Littles Trust, a centre for children in Madurai, recalled a macro-level study on child marriage conducted in 2012-2013 which showed that about 76 per cent of girls were forced into child marriage as they did not have access to high schools, while 82 per cent did not have access to higher secondary school.
Around 49 per cent of girls dropped out and got married between15 and 17 years. “Access to schools and proper transport can help retain them in schools, saving them from child marriages,” she said.
She added that the study, conducted by the Trust along with CRY and SKI-TN, was done at a macro level, analysing response from 112 children in 10 districts, who were forced in to marriage, to understand the reason behind child marriages. The activists also recommended that the authorities should upgrade schools till Plus Two, besides ensuring that proper transportation facilities, safe drinking water and operational toilets are made available to these children in schools.
Wider publicity of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 was recommended to encourage gram panchayat to make their villages ‘child marriage-free villages’ with awards and recognition.
The conference also saw Agitha, child rights activist and High Court lawyer, explaining and clarifying doubts of representatives of various child rights organisation on the legal aspect of child marriage. Krinna Dalpathbhai, programme director, HAQ-Centre for Child Rights, New Delhi, spoke on the challenges ahead and potential strategies to mitigate the problem.
“Child marriage is increasing here, but silently. We are here to not just work towards creating awareness, but also to find a mechanism to bring a solution to the problem,” said Chella Selvakumar, general secretary, SKI-TN.