Jaipur, Apr 20 (UNI) A staggering 82 percent girls in Rajasthan are married by 18 years while 48 percent get married by 15.
A UNICEF survey says the average age of marriage of girls in Rajasthan is lowest at 17.8 years while the same is 21 years in Tamil Nadu and 24 in Goa.
As Akha Teej nears on April 30 this year, experts gathered here today to find means to stop these harmful traditional rituals practiced in parts of northern India, especially Rajasthan.
They expressed the view that although the Child Marriage Restraint Act exists on paper since 1929, it has been difficult to implement the law as people's participation was totally missing during the formation of the law.
Dr Sunil Mehra, executive director of MAMTA, a Delhi-based NGO working in this field in Rajasthan, said the law can never be successfully implemented unless there is participation of people who will actually follow this law.
He said India will have the maximum number of adolescents in the decades between 2001-2020 and if we fail to stop the early marriages in this generation, ''we would have lost an entire generation, which will affect their overall development physically and mentally, severely impacting the growth of the entire nation.'' The media workshop was attended by Minister for Women and Child Development, Kanakmal Katara besides Principal secretary, Alka Kala and UNICEF's PO Shikha Wadhwa and T V Anthony, National Advisor for Population Stabilisation, besides representatives from MAMTA.
Mr Anthony, who has worked in Tamil Nadu, urged Rajasthan to emulate the steps taken there to increase the marriageable age. He said after a indepth study undertaken by a doctor, it was found the ideal age to bear a child was between 23-25 years, where the complications during pregnancy remain minimum.
So the Tamil Nadu government coined the slogan that the ideal age to get married is 21 years, emphasising on the safe period of pregnancy. The slogan was publicised by posters put up at public places, rickshaws and on milestones. The state government even involved the private companies in publicising these slogans in their campaigns.
Dr Mehra urged for 'Zero tolerance' to early marriage in Rajasthan through persistent efforts and message to all functionaries especially at district level.
Mr Katara emphasised the need to change the mindset of people in rural areas through Panchayats, which he said were powerful political entities.
He also reiterated the campaign against child marriage should not just gain momentum during Akha Teej but must be held throughout the year.
UNI RRT RP HT1740