Few districts in Tamil Nadu record highest number of child marriages in the month of May, owing to several auspicious dates and prolonged closure of schools due to COVID.
Chennai May 27, 2021: According to a recent observation by one of the leading child rights organization, Child Rights and You (CRY), it has been seen that there has been a rise of 40 percent in child marriages in the month of May 2020, with 318 cases recorded from the operational areas of CRY. In 2021, with COVID taking a bigger stature than ever before, the children are deemed to meet unfortunate instances of violations, unless intervened timely. To worsen the situation, May is a month dotted with auspicious dates, making the children more vulnerable, during this time.
The number addresses situation in 4 districts, covering 10 blocks and 72 tribal hamlets, namely, Salem, Dharmapuri, Ramnad and Kodaikanal. Salem recorded 60 instances of child marriages in the month of May 2019, which rose to 98 in May 2020. Dharmapuri, which saw around 150 cases in 2019 recorded 192 cases in May 2020. The rise in the singular month is due to several muhurthams (auspicious dates) with COVID further accelerating the process.
“Due to the pandemic, there has been a struggle to gather information. The above-mentioned numbers are indicative of a worrying trend, that we need to be mindful of. Since COVID, most of the educational centers have been closed or distance education has come to play. With no education, thinning out of resources for underprivileged families and patriarchal mindset, child rights violation became more rampant,” said John Roberts, General manager, Development support, CRY
He also added that, CRY has been constantly working towards creating a sustainable impact in the lives of children. “Last year, we ran a 10–12-week activity program through our project partners, engaging children in meaningful ways, especially during a time, when the schools were closed due to COVID. From using arts, to using several knowledge-based modules, we ensured they were engaged with some form of activity throughout the period,”.
According to the latest Census Report (2011), 8.69% of the girls aged between 0-19 years are married in Tamil Nadu. Dharmapuri (11.9 %) and Salem (10.9 %) are two of the districts with the greatest number of child marriage instances. This is also indicative of the potential of the child violations in select few districts, making child rights organization take stricter precautionary steps than ever before.
“We have to keep a constant vigil to ensure the situation doesn’t worsen for many underprivileged families, and their children during this time of the year. We are in constant guard and are reaching out to as many families as possible to stem the rising trend,” said Jeyam, head of the Salem People Trust.
“While the government is having to extend all resources towards managing the Covid situation, the issue of child marriages also needs focus. COVID is claiming more lives than ever before, on the other hand, child marriages and other protection issues are social diseases which claims children’s rights. Special attention and focus have to be given to address their issues, “said Chella Selvakumar, former Tamil Nadu, SCPCR (State Commission for Protection of Child Rights)
Creating awareness and giving voice to children, along with strengthening the Village Child Protection Committee are some of the immediate steps that can be taken to build a safe and happy future for the children of our nation. Ensuring they have a safe future should not be an isolated, but a collective effort of a conscious society.