01/05/2022, 15.30
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No more child brides in Odisha’s Ganjam district

Local authorities have declared their territory "free" from this practice. A survey last year found that 22.3 per cent of women aged 20 to 24 got married before 18. District authorities held rural meetings, registered all marriages and offered rewards of 50,000 rupees to informants to stop a practice aggravated by the recent pandemic.

Bhubaneswar (AsiaNews) – In Ganjam, a district in the Indian State of Odisha, authorities claim to have won the fight against child marriage. Although illegal, the practice is still widespread.

On Monday, local authorities announced that the district as child marriage free, the first in the State to reach this goal.

This is significant because, according to the 2020-21 National Family Health Survey, in Ganjam last year, 22.3 per cent of women aged 20 to 24 said they were married before the age of 18.

Ganjam district has a population of 3.5 million. In the past two years, it has been the focus of a special campaign against child marriage, called Nirbhaya Kadhi.

“We decided to declare the district free of child marriage after collecting detailed information about all weddings that took place in 2020 and 2021,” said district collector Vijay Amruta Kulange said.

In addition to advanced efforts to collect data from rural areas, the district also pursued a strong campaign to educate teenage girls and crack down thanks to quick information gathering.

According to local authorities, 228 child marriages were stopped in 2020 and 201 in 2021. In the meantime, the reward for informants was raised from 5,000 rupees (US$ 68) to 50,000 (US$ 680).

Ganjam’s results come as the economic crisis created by the pandemic has raised awareness about child brides in India.

Recently, the Modi government introduced a bill to raise the marriage age for brides to 21, that of grooms. A 31-member parliamentary panel is now discussing the issue, but only member is a woman.

The Child Odisha State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (OSCPCR) has urged the panel not to raise the legal age of marriage because it will not stop child marriages and is likely to increase unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

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