According to the census data released by the Government of Goa on the on the marital status of the population states the in Goa over 3,000 children between the age group of 10-14 years are married despite of ban on child marriages in India. The data which was released on Thursday shows that 1,922 female and 1,212 male children as married, while another 2,215 males and over 6,000 females between the age group of 15 and 19 years are also married, while the legal marriageable age in the country is 21 for males and 18 for females. Also the disturbing fact is that 172 of the children aged between 10 and 14 years are registered as widowed, while 100 are separated from their spouses. In the age group of 15-19 years, 214 children are widowed and 83 are separated.
Also disturbing is that 172 of the children aged between 10 and 14 years are registered as widowed, while 100 are separated from their spouses. In the age group of 15-19 years, 214 children are widowed and 83 are separated. The data does not record the socio-economic background of the population, but since the enumeration is household-wise it has covered the entire populace including migrant floating population and slum dwellers.
After being informed about the data DIG V Ranganathan said, “Such marriages are illegal and we will examine this”. The data also shows that out of Goa’s 14.58 lakh population, 3.63 lakh have never been married, similar number are currently married, around 11,000 are widowed, 1,121 are separated and 1,330 are divorced.
“I have not come across even a single case of child marriage in the state and we will seek clarification from the Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner,” said Deepali Naik, director of Women and Child Development. ”It’s impossible that the figures are so high. I’ve lived in Goa and been in government service for 19 years but never came across a child marriage case. I’ve even checked with Suraj Vernekar, civil registrar cum sub registrar, Salcete, and he too finds the data could be flawed,” she said.
Former director of Women and Child Development, Vikas Gaunekar, too finds the Census data implausible. “Something is wrong in the data. I’ve never come across any such case, though they were common prior to independence and up to the 1970s,” he said, adding, “Goa is a progressive state and we don’t have khap panchayats and diktats like other states in the North. How can one single parameter term it so regressive? The only possible explanation could be that the marriages may have occurred among the migrant community in their native places and then they must have returned to Goa.”
District-wise data shows a higher incidence of such cases in North Goa with 1,643 children (10-14 yrs) shown as married compared to 1,491 in South Goa. Urban Goa also showed a higher incidence. In all, 2,021 children were found married compared to 1,113 in rural areas. Data on marital status also shows 2,215 males and 6,710 females between the age group 15-19 as married. Of these, 5,724 are in urban and 3,201 in rural Goa. Even more alarming is the fertility (census) data which indicates that girls below the age of 15 have given birth to 547 children while those between the age group of 15-19 have given birth to 2,007 children.
The government on Friday raised concerns over prevalence of child marriages in the country which has shown an increasing trend in last three years. In her written reply to a question in Lok Sabha, Union women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi said that the National Crime Records Bureau data for three years from 2011 to 2013 shows an increasing trend in child marriages. The minister said, 222 cases of child marriage was reported in 2013, 169 in 2012, while 2011 had recorded 113 such marriages in different parts of the country.