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Assam Govt’s crackdown on child marriages begins, 7 arrested in Nagaon, Morigaon

Guwahati: As announced by Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, the state’s police launched a massive crackdown on people involved in child marriage and arrested at least 7 persons in Nagaon and Morigaon districts.

According to police, five of the accused were picked up from the Nagaon district. They were arrested by the Batadraba police station in the district. A police officer at the Batadraba police station confirmed, “We picked up five persons involved in child marriage.”

Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had on Thursday warned that those marrying girls under 18 years of age will be arrested. CM Sarma also warned that the action against those persons will begin starting Friday. The firebrand Assam BJP leader further informed that “a total of 4,004 child marriage cases have been registered across the state.”

CM Sarma took to Twitter and shared a report prepared by the Assam Police and said, “Assam Govt is firm in its resolve to end the menace of child marriage in the state. So far @assampolice has registered 4,004 cases across the state and more police action is likely in days ahead. Action on the cases will begin starting February 3 (Friday). I request all to cooperate.”

The chief minister also chaired a high-level meeting top police officials ahead of state-wide police action against child marriage & reviewed the arrangements. He also appealed to people to “extend support & cooperate” with the govt in its endeavor to rid the state of the evil practice.

According to the report, the highest number of cases (370) were registered in the Dhubri district, followed by Hojai (255) and Udalguri (235). At least 192 cases were registered in the Guwahati police Commissionerate. At 24, the Dima Hasao district in the state logged the lowest number of child marriage cases.

Assam Chief Minister had recently reiterated his government’s commitment to stop underage marriages and motherhood and warned that thousands of husbands will be arrested in the next five-six months as it is a crime to have sexual relations with a girl below 14 years of age.

Speaking at a government function, the Assam BJP leader suggested that women should embrace motherhood at the “appropriate age” as it otherwise leads to medical complications.

Sarma’s comments come in the backdrop of the state government’s move to bring stringent laws and evoke the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act to check child marriages and underage motherhood.

“Marrying a minor girl is not only against the law, but it also breaches the fundamental rights of a girl child and is quite dangerous to her health. According to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, all the spouses of such young women would be imprisoned and charged,” CM Sarma stated.

The Assam government took a decision to launch a crackdown against child marriages in the state in response to disturbing data from an official survey performed by the health department that said, on an average in Assam, 31 per cent of girls were married off before turning the legal age of 18.

“Such a large number of young girls were subjected to child marriage is disturbing. The state government has decided to file cases against all the husbands who are responsible for getting a girl pregnant before the age of 18 under the POCSO act,” the Chief Minister added.

The legal age for the marriage of a woman is 18 years and those who marry younger girls will also be brought to book, the Assam Chief Minister warned. “Many (men who marry girls) could face life imprisonment,” he warned.

Speaking about motherhood, Sarma said, “Women should not wait too long to become mothers as it leads to complications. The appropriate age for motherhood is 22 years to 30 years”.

In a lighter tone, Sarma said women who have not married yet should do it soon. We have been speaking against early motherhood. But at the same time, women should not wait too long either as many do … God has created our bodies in a manner that there is an appropriate age for everything,” he added.”

It may be recalled that the Assam Cabinet on Monday decided to book men who marry girls below 14 years of age under the POCSO Act. Those who marry girls in the age group of 14-18 years will be tried under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.