There are several states where girls were married before they reached 15 years of age among Scheduled Castes in 2011. Bihar leads the pack with more than 30,000 girls below the age of 15 years married off that year, according to Census figures released on Thursday. This was followed by Rajasthan, notorious for child marriages, at 28,644, West Bengal at 26,894 and Madhya Pradesh 18,923.
The argument of economic disadvantage being a principal cause behind such social evils is busted by devastating figures for states generally considered better off. Punjab had 11,845 girls being married off before 15 years, followed by Haryana with 6,822 girls from these castes. Gujarat also saw more than 6,441 such marriages.
The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, penalises the marriage of girls below the age of 18 and boys below 21over 18 years of age who enters into a marriage with a minor be punished with up to two years of imprisonment, or a fine.
There could be more girls married off before the age of 18 years, but the data could not exactly be deduced as figures for the age group of 15-19 are given in this Census.the panel's mandate would be two-fold. It will 'facilitate granting of permissions for both foreign as well as domestic producers from relevant authorities of central and state governments'.
It would also meet regularly to monitor the facilitation process and issue directions to the authorities concerned.