‘Bengal Hosts Large Percentage of the Country’s Child Marriages’

KOLKATA: Though the number of girls dropping out of schools in West Bengal has gone down, the state still witnesses a large percentage of child marriages in the country.

Referring to the District Level Household and Facility Survey (DLHS-4) 2012-2013, UNICEF Chief Field Office For West Bengal M Asadur Rahman said that the percentage of under-18 child brides in West Bengal is around 31.6.

“This is quite high and the consequences are multi-dimensional,” Rahman said adding that six districts having border with Bangladesh besides Murshidabad have been witnessing the highest number of child marriage in the under-18 age group.

Though there has been an improvement in almost a decade, a lot needed to be done to reduce it to nil, the UNICEF official said stating the DLHS 3 (2007-08) report that suggested that child marriage in the under-18 age group in the state was 41.3 per cent.

According to Rahman the state government with the introduction of Kanyashree Prakalpa has taken solid step to address the issue and UNICEF has been closely working with them.

And that has witnessed a rise in the number of enrollments of girl students both in the secondary and higher secondary schools, the UNICEF official said.

“Since the Kanyashree Prakalpa was launched it has helped the state in addressing this issue and we have seen around six per cent rise in enrollments of students in both secondary and higher secondary schools,” Rahman said.

The UNICEF, however, said that the Kanyashree Prakalpa was not reaching certain pockets in West Bengal including areas in the Sunderbans.

“Still there are several to whom the Kanyashree Prakalpa is not reaching. There are minorities, the SCs, STs and even places in the Sunderbans,” he said adding that the UNICEF was working closely with the DM to address the issue.

On how has the West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights (WBCPCR) has been trying to assist the government in the issue R Chairperson Prof Asokendu Sengupta said, “Yes, we get reports of child marriage in the state. So far we have reported all about the incidents to the state government and in most cases they have taken actions arresting the culprits. In fact the government has done a remarkable job in containing the trafficking of girls rising from the child marriage.”

Meanwhile, to celebrate the 26th anniversary of the convention on the rights of the child, the WBCPCR along with the UNICEF and other NGOs would hold an event to review the progress made and access what is still left to be done.

According to Prof Sengupta, besides, felicitating girls for their contribution in combating the evil of child marriage, the event, culmination of workshops, activities and events organised in the districts, would see the participation of around 800 children from various shelter homes and NGOs in the state.