In an almost never-before show of solidarity for a social cause under the direction of the government, hundreds of villages in 38 districts of Uttar Pradesh organized awareness programmes where an unprecedented number of men, women and children took pledge to eliminate child marriage from the state. Earlier this week, various government departments had written to the officials and other stakeholders for full-fledged participation in the ‘Child Marriage Free India’ campaign and take pledge to make Uttar Pradesh child marriage free. From police stations to courtrooms, panchayats and community centres, from young children to old women survivors of child marriage, the entire country witnessed an overwhelming response with crores of people joining in and taking pledges to end child marriage.
Child Marriage Free India is a nationwide campaign led by women activists and 160 civil society organizations in more than 300 districts to eliminate child marriage in India by 2030.
Throughout the day, the scenes across the state were those of festivity and celebrations as the atmosphere filled with enthusiasm and commitment and the late evening candle marches, led by women survivors, saw the participation of an array of people cutting across all strata of the society, with the message that child marriage has no place in new Uttar Pradesh.
As per the UNICEF estimates, if the progress continues at the current rate, millions more girls across India will be forced into child marriages until at least 2050. A new book ‘When Children Have Children: Tipping Point To End Child Marriage’’ by noted child rights activist and lawyer Bhuwan Ribhu, which was released as part of the campaign last week, gives a blueprint on how to achieve the tipping point of child marriage in 2030 itself, and has infused a fresh lease of hope and chalked out a strategy for the coalition of NGOs working as part of the Child Marriage Free India campaign.
Shredding apart the reality of child marriage and its consequences, the book states, “Child marriage is child rape. It results in child pregnancy, which may result in child death.”
Expressing happiness over the overwhelming response to the campaign, Ravi Kant, Country Head, Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF), said, “Child marriage has been embedded in our social fabric for ages and despite it being a crime, child marriages haven’t ceased to exist. However, witnessing the immense and almost unprecedented support from all quarters of society, I feel like India is on the anvil of creating history. This movement is spreading like wildfire and with the commitment shown by the state governments, our children may finally thrive in a country where their rights are ensured and protected. It is commendable that governments in all the states are on a mission to end child marriage and gives the entire cause a new momentum and confidence.”
The National Family Health Survey-V (NFHS 2019-21) reports that nationally 23.3% women between the age group of 20-24 were married off before attaining the age of 18 while Uttar Pradesh reported 15.8 per cent.
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