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Child marriage in Assam: Mutual agreements used as tools to evade law

Guwahati: Child marriages have been rampant in several districts of Assam where agreements between families of minors were used as tools to escape the law.
Many more cases of child marriage have come to light in Assam after the police arrested 2,442 people as a part of the state government's massive crackdown against the ill practice. There are some cases of child marriage where a mutual agreement or affidavit is made between the families of the bride and the groom and signed by a government-authorized Notary Advocate with some terms and conditions. But in reality, the terms and conditions are not followed properly on many occasions and these affidavits are used as tools to escape law enforcement, said police sources.
ANI accessed a copy of such a marriage agreement between the family of a 14-year-old girl and an 18-year-old boy from Assam's Kokrajhar district. The agreement carries a Notary stamp dated May 24, 2021.

"Whereas the daughter of the first party as well as the son of the second party is minor. Both parties are interested to solemnize the marriage of their words ie between and on their attaining age of maturity as per Muslim Shariat. But due to non-attaining of their age of maturity, they are unable to solemnize the marriage at this moment but for their satisfaction, they are willing to execute this mutual agreement with the following terms and conditions," the mutual agreement copy said.

The terms and conditions mentioned in the mutual agreement are - before the age of maturity, the second party and his son shall not put any pressure on the first party as well as his daughter for the same and even the son of the second party shall not visit the house of the first party before their marriage.
The agreement further said until the social marriage is solemnized between the son of the second party and daughter of the first party, they shall live separately and they shall live in their respective houses, if both the guardian will pressure the minor to do any unlawful activity then the parties will face the consequence of the law.
"The son of the second party will be bound to marry the daughter of the first party at relevant time while attaining majority, both the parties will maintain the terms and condition of this agreement till their death and if any of the party violets/ any of the terms and conditions of this mutual agreement then the aggrieved party can seek redressal before the appropriate court claiming compensation against the violating party if he/she suffers any loss for such violation," added the agreement.
Such mutual agreements of marriage between minors have been rampant in Kokrajhar, Dhubri and other districts of Assam.
According to the reports, on many occasions, the parents of minors do not follow the terms and conditions of the agreement.
On Monday, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma raised concerns about the prevalence of teenage pregnancies in the state.
"Our drive against child marriage is for public health and public welfare as the teenage pregnancy ratio in Assam is quite alarming - 16.8 per cent," Chief Minister Sharma Sarma said.
He further said, "We are resolved to continue this drive until we fulfil our objective. I urge the people to cooperate with us in controlling this harmful trend."
Sharing the district-wise data on teenage pregnancy, the Assam Chief Minister said that, Barpeta district has the highest teenage pregnancy ratio in the state with a ratio of 28.7 per cent in the year 2022.
The data revealed that a 27.9 per cent teenage pregnancy ratio had been registered in Dhubri and South Salmara followed by 24.1 per cent in Goalpara, 22.3 per cent in Bongaigaon, 21.9 per cent in Kokrajhar, 21.1 per cent in Darrang, 20.8 per cent in Morigaon, 19.4 per cent in Chirang, 18.8 per cent in Nagaon and Hojai district.
According to the data shared by Assam CM, Assam registered 6,20,867 pregnancies in 2022 out of which 1,04,264 were of below the age of 19.
Dhubri and South Salmara districts registered 51,831 cases out of which 14,438 were below the age of 19.
On the other hand, as many as 64,941 pregnancies were registered in Nagaon and Hojai districts, out of which 12,188 are below the age of 19 years. (ANI)

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