A new trend has emerged where girls are willing to get married before they turn 18 in order to gain access to a mobile phone and the freedom to go out of the house with their fiancé in Malappuram, one of the most populous district in the Malabar region of Kerala which is facing a major crisis in terms of child rights, safety and protection. However, the collaborative efforts of different state organisations includingDistrict Child Protection Unit (DCPU), Child Line and Child Welfare Committee have helped bring down the rate of child marriages in the district.
A project of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Child Line is a 24-hour free telephone emergency helpline number for children in need of care and protection. The Malappuram wing of Child Line has been active for a while now and has prevented many cases of child marriage in the district.The DCPU and Child Line often conducts interactive sessions with young girls in the district. Fasal Pullat, the non-institutional care protection officer of DCPU, said that during the course of interaction and counselling, it has been noticed that some girls in higher secondary schools are, in fact, interested in early marriage. Pullat informs that when the rescued girls were asked about what influenced them to accept the marriage proposal, many responded that it was the benefit of ‘freedom’ to use mobile phones and to go out with fiance. Being brought up in a conservative society and often subjugated to patriarchal powers, they feel early marriage will give them enough room to manipulate.
Though thought of mostly as a problem prominent among Muslims in Malappuram, cases of child marriages have also been reported in Hindu and SC/ST communities as well as the tribal population in the area. Child marriages in Kerala, especialy the Malabar region, however, is not a recent phenomena. The state has a dark history of two practices — Arabi Kalyanam and Mysore Kalyanam — where men from West Asian nations and Mysore would marry underage girls from the region. The ideal state in Malappuram is that boys after completing their higher secondary fly to West Asian nations for jobs, while girls, as soon as they hit puberty, are married off. It is a commonly believed that the girl should be less educated than her husband so the scope of education is blocked from all the sides.
“It is also significant to provide legal awareness to the parents and children about legislations and acts like Section 498A of the IPC, the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, Domestic Violence Act, 2005, as these have, to a greater extent, made a positive impact in the society. Legal awareness should be inculcated with the formal education to see improvement of the current situation,” said AP Ismail, an advocate from Manjeri in Malappuram. Geethanjali, a DCPU officer said “In the first place, the socialisation process itself becomes a matter of concern. We are re-socialising the children and parents so as to clear their mindset about these demeaning customs and 'obligation of early marriages'. Men should take firm decision that he would not marry a minor girl and support women empowerment. There is a downfall in the growth rate of child marriages in the district as a result of various initiatives by DCPU”.
Tags : #Kerala #ChildMarriage #Malappuram #Girls #MobilePhones #Freedom #StepOut #Childline #DCPU