Notwithstanding the laws, child marriage in Bihar particularly in rural areas is a reality, with the percentage of under-age marriages touching as high as 50 per cent in 340 blocks, says a new study released on Tuesday.
The figure revealed by the study conducted by Gender Alliance, Bihar, is above the National Family Health Survey-4 that put the incidence of child marriage at 39.1 per cent in the state.
"While the average for Bihar (in child marriage) is 39.1 per cent, our study found that there are 340 blocks where this percentage is above the state's average.
"The highest probability of child marriage is in Ghoswari block under Patna district with 66.81 per cent, while the lowest probability is 11.81 per cent for Lahladpur block under Saran district," Prashanti Tiwary, head of Gender Alliance, said while releasing the findings of the compendium here.
Speaking on the occasion, N. Vijayalaksmi, the Managing Director of Women Development Corporation, said: "While Bihar tops the list amongst states with high incidences of child marriage, there is currently no database beyond district level for government or policy makers to concentrate their actions. For the first time, Gender Alliance, Bihar has attempted to fill that serious gap."
Two days after its "Bandhan Tod" mobile application, a new high-tech tool to fight against child marriage and dowry, the Gender Alliance brought out a detailed compendium postulating probable incidences of child marriage across all the blocks.
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"Together with the Bandhan Tod app, the compendium makes a very strong tool that will help government intensify its efforts against child marriage and dowry with focused and concerted actions," said Vijayalakshmi.
The study has thrown up data from two perspectives: it has Gender Parity Index across key dimensions of social, economic and literacy that compares the position of females over males across all blocks; and it postulates the probability of child marriage in these blocks based on the inter-relationship between social and economic variables.
"The study also lists various factors influencing rise and fall in incidences for child marriage. The study is a powerful tool that is surely going to help (Chief Minister) Nitish Kumar to focus on 340 blocks to make visible changes with less resources and time," said Vijay Kumar Chaudhary, Speaker of the Bihar Vidhan Sabha, while releasing the compendium.
The study has been published in collaboration with the Patna-based think tank Asian Development Research Institute (ADRI), a premier research institute with economist Shaibal Gupta on its editorial board.
N. Vijayalakshmi, an IAS officer in Bihar having the prime responsibility for eradicating child marriage from the state, is also on the editorial board.
She said the research would "help focus our attention and we will certainly now move to preparing Block Action Plans with support from Gender Alliance".
Others economists and demographers have also supported the findings of the compendium and its methodology, and ADRI has planned to conduct a roundtable discussion on the compendium in the coming days, so that the same tool could also be applied in other states facing the problem of child marriage.
Also present on the occasion, senior BJP leader and state minister Nand Kishore Yadav said: "The compendium, along with the Bandhan Tod app, is surely going to be a strong arsenal for the government of Bihar towards eradication of child marriage."
Gender Alliance Bihar, a collective effort of over 270 civil society organisations supported by the UN Population Fund, was started last year to bring together civil society, activists, academicians, researchers, media and others on a common platform to advocate gender equality.
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