When people talk about child marriages, one does not attribute it to something happening right in your own backyard. It is easier to remain in denial and brush it off as something that doesn’t happen in Visakhapatnam. But reportedly, most parents in the district actually tend to marry off their children before they even attain the legal age.
Child Rights Protection Forum (CRPF) members have stated that the numbers are all set to go up this summer due to the long vacation period. A Integrated Child Rights Protection Society (ICRPS) report states that 103 child marriages of minor girls were prevented between August 2012 and March 2017 in the district. However, the CPRF State President Gondu Seetaram states that scores of other child marriages have taken place in this period undetected by the enforcement authorities.
He alleged the weak efforts by the enforcement teams for the continuing practice of child marriages in the district. There have been such marriage reported not just in far-off areas, but also within the GVMC limits. “We recently stopped the marriage of a 13-year-old girl from One Town area with a 23-year-old boy from Bheemili,” he reportedly stated. These illegal child marriages do not happen in secrecy either. Kalyanamandapams and Churches play host to such marriages with the staff willing to ignore the happenings for an amount. They do not put a stop-gate in place by asking for proof of age, Aadhar card or study certificate.
“As per GO No 30 that was issued in 2012, the enforcement team consisting of the collector, tehsildar and police personnel should directly visit the spot where the child marriage is reported and stop it by counselling the parents and victims. But this rule is not followed,” Seetaram further stated. Child marriages, besides the obvious moral issues, lead to mental and health issues too.
Dr KV Ram Kumar, Managing Director of Lakshmi Gayatri reportedly said, “Child marriages are causing major health problems like hormone imbalance in the underaged girls. Even the uterus is not fully developed at that tender age.” Social Work Prof ABSV Ranga Rao at AU stated that child marriages are rampant only due to one reason, “Most of the villagers are labourers and both the wife and husband go to the fields early in the morning and come home at night. They get their daughters married before attaining puberty to keep them safe from anti-social elements.”