One of India’s highly industrialised state, Haryana sees a steady rise in victims of child marriages in the last three years, according to official figures. Even as the government takes a step in declaring child marriages “void abinitio” through the new law, the state ranked 15th in child marriages in the country according to Census 2011. Census 2011 reported around 2.5 lakh children were married off before reaching 18 years in the state, which constituted approximately 2 per cent of all married children.
In this context, it is important to highlight the status of child marriage in Haryana, according to the report of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) 2021. During the last 3 years, victims of child marriages in the state rose from 20 in 2019 to 33 in 2021.
The NCRB data, however reported that only 86 cases of child marriages were registered under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA), 2006. This means there has been gross under-reporting of child marriage cases, also as Haryana reports a poor sex-ratio, there have been cases of minor girls being trafficked into the state for child marriage. It is worth highlighting a recent case in Kaithal in May this year, where a 14-year old girl from Bihar was trafficked and sold as a child bride in the state.
In view of the prevailing scenario, the state government is required to ensure appropriate action come with with a foolproof plan to link child marriage with Juvenile Justice (care and protection) Act and POCSO Act for penalising the perpetrators of crime.