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Mass arrests of Indian women protesting against child marriage

Mass arrests of Indian women protesting against child marriage

Mass arrests of Indian women protesting against child marriage

Mass arrests of Indian women protesting against child marriage

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  • Hundreds of women in Assam are protesting against underage marriage.
  • The government has issued financial aid to affected women.
  • But opposition leaders have criticized the crackdown as “whimsical” and “public relations”.

In response to their male relatives being detained as part of a campaign against underage marriage, hundreds of women in the Assam state of northeastern India are protesting.

Since Friday, state police have detained more than 2,400 people.

This includes the priests who performed the marriages, as well as the wives and family members of the accused child brides.

The initiative has been dubbed a “farce” by opposition leaders who claim it unfairly targets Muslims.

But according to Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, the “war” being waged by his administration against underage marriage is aimed at all communities.

In India, it is against the law for girls under the age of 18 to get married, but because of patriarchal traditions and poverty, the practice Himanta Biswa Sarma nevertheless persists in many areas.

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More than two out of ten females get married before turning 18 according to government statistics.

The Indian parliament is debating a bill that would raise the age requirement for marriage for women to 21.

However, girls can marry among Muslims, who typically follow Muslim personal law, after they reach puberty. In a separate appeal to the Supreme Court, the National Commission for Women requested that Muslim women’s marriage eligibility be raised to the same level as that of women of other faiths.

Mr. Sarma’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has been advocating for the creation of a universal civil code.

Female relatives of the detained men have been protesting outside police stations since the arrests started on Friday.

Many women claim that the males who were arrested are the main providers for their families and that they are totally reliant on them.

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The affected women have been told by the government that they will receive financial aid, but this hasn’t allayed their concerns.

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“I am worried about how I’m going to look after my child,” one woman told The Indian Express newspaper.

“My husband works in the fields and I’m completely dependent on him,” said another woman, adding that she only had basic primary education and didn’t know how to access legal help.

According to a story in local newspaper on Saturday, police in the Dhubri area thrashed demonstrators and used tear gas to scatter them.

Men accused of marrying children under the age of 14 have been charged under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act; if convicted, they might face a life sentence in jail and be barred from posting bail.

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The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act stipulates a maximum term of two years in prison and a fine of 100,000 rupees ($1,213; £1,005) for anyone accused of marrying girls between the ages of 14 and 18.

More than 8,100 people, including the parents of grooms and priests who officiated at the weddings, were mentioned in police complaints, according to Mr. Sarma. He said that he had instructed the police to show “zero tolerance.”

He claimed last week, as the crackdown got underway, that “one generation will have to suffer” to prevent thousands of girls from being married as children in the future.

But according to opposition leaders, the administration is making it harder for regular citizens to live their lives.

The Trinamool Congress party’s head, Ripun Bora, referred to the crackdown as “whimsical” and claimed that the state administration was abusing the legal system.

Gaurav Gogoi, a lawmaker from the Congress party, called the move a “[public relations] exercise”, saying police were investigating cases that were “decades old without proper enquiry or adherence to procedure”.

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However, Mr. Sarma has stated that the campaign against child marriage will continue till 2026, the year of the following state elections.

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