Child marriage
Representative photo. Image credit - Hindustan Times

A top Assam government official claimed that every second marriage in Dhubri district of the state is a ‘child marriage’.

Additional chief secretary of the Social Welfare Department, Assam, Jishnu Barua said this while delivering a speech at the state consultation meeting for adolescent programming under Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK).

The stakeholders who met during the state consultation meeting highlighted the challenges in addressing the problems faced by adolescent girl children in Assam, especially in the minority-dominated areas and tea gardens, reports The News Mill.

The Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK), which was launched in the year 2014 by the Union government, defines an adolescent as a person within 10-19 years of age.

The programme is committed to promoting adolescent health mission across the country and aims at addressing health issues of 243 million adolescents constituting 21 per cent of the total population in India.

It has been reported that representatives from State Innovation and Transformation Aayog (SITA), Assam; NHM Assam; Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (ASCPCR); Foundation for Integrated Support and Solution (FISS) and UNICEF Assam vowed to work together to upgrade the pathetic condition of Dhubri.

The report quoted Jishnu Barua as saying: “Today, we have assembled here to understand what projects we are going to undertake in Dhubri district. I must admit that Dhubri is a hugely challenging district. In all the aspects Dhubri is way behind the rest of Assam. When we talk about child marriage, every second marriage is a child marriage in Dhubri. Unfortunately Dhubri has the highest child marriage rate in Assam which is 48.3 per cent.”

Five key areas for intervention – health and nutrition, WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), education, child protection and adolescent empowerment – have been identified to bring about a change in the behaviour among the adolescents, their parents and community members to achieve development.

The top state government official said the target is to reduce child marriage by 10 per cent by 2020 and 10 per cent reduction in adolescent pregnancy by 2020 is a huge task.

While addressing various district officers and other officials of different stake-holders, Barua also said:  “There has been complete lack of synergy. Apart from that there’s serious shortage of officers in Dhubri district officials are holding multiple positions. These are huge administrative challenges we have to face.”

Barua also mentioned about non-availability of Child Helpline 1098.

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