Rise in child marriages in State ahead of Godavari Pushkarams
Child marriages have always been endemic in coastal Andhra Pradesh, and Vijayawada is a sort of hub for them, with parents from the Godavari districts to the north and Prakasam and Guntur to the south preferring to come to the famous Kanakadurga temple here to perform the ceremonies.
Given that context, officials of the Child Protection Unit (CPU) of the Women Development and Child Welfare Department in Krishna district are staggered by the sheer number of child marriages they have had to intervene and stop this summer. On Saturday, two such high-profile interventions were reported in coastal Andhra Pradesh. In the last five months, officials here prevented 75 child marriages in Vijayawada, Machilipatnam, Mudinepalli, Mandavalli, Tiruvuru, Kankipadu, Avanigadda, Gudivada and other mandals of Krishna district. There are apprehensions that the number of marriages that went undetected is much higher.
So why is the rash of child marriages more this year? After racking their brains for weeks, (CPU) officials finally found the answer. It was astrologers who gave them the explanation.
As per the almanac, the conclusion of the Godavari Pushkarams next month will mark the end of the auspicious time for marriages this year, and there will be a long period stretching into next year during which there are no good muhurtams. Parents are therefore in a hurry to rush their minor wards into wedlock before the Pushkarams. Speaking to The Hindu , priest Pratapa Mallikarjuna Sastry said that while there are some marriage muhurtams after the Pushkarams, they are very few in number. According to the panchangam (almanac), the next auspicious period for marriages starts only after October 16 next year.
75 marriages prevented
District Child Protection Officer (DCPO) Ch. Vijay Kumar said the staff prevented 75 child marriages in the last five months and the complaints on child marriages were high in number in the last two months. “In April, we prevented 23 child marriages and 18 in May,” he said.
The Women Development and Child Welfare Department’s Krishna district project Director, Ms K. Krishna Kumari said many parents from neighbouring districts perform marriages at temples in Krishna district. In many cases, the brides are aged 12-16. “We have constituted mandal-level and village-level child protection committees to stop child marriages. The committee members, headmasters, anganwadi workers, Asha workers and sarpanches can stop child marriages,” she said.
In the cases busted in recent days, some of the parents admitted that they were in a hurry in view of the approaching Pushkarams. “If we could not perform the marriage before the Pushkarams, we would have to wait for two more years for a good muhurtam. We have two daughters and if we perform the wedding of our elder daughter now, we can plan for the marriage of our second daughter then,” said the mother of a 15-year-old would-be bride.
In many cases, parents perform marriages on the premises of some temples. But Endowments Department officials do not insist on the age proof and other particulars of the bride and do not tip off the child welfare officials.