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Attempt to marry off teen to a man twice her age foiled in Odisha’s Ganjam district

Berhampur (Odisha), December 1

The Ganjam district administration in Odisha has thwarted an attempt to marry off a 15-year-old girl to a man twice her age, officials said.

The marriage of the teenager, a student of Class VIII, was fixed with a man of around 30 years in Patapur on Monday night.

Acting on a tip-off, the child development protection officer, police and childline activists rushed to the minor’s house ahead of her wedding.

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Childline activists rescued the minor and produced her before the district child welfare committee.

“We convinced the parents of both the girl and man. Parents of the girl agreed not to marry her till she attains the age of 18,” Sanakhemundi Tahasildar, Srinibash Behera said on Tuesday.

The district administration has prevented a dozen child-marriage attempts in the district in November and 199 so far this year. Last year, the administration had scuttled 228 child marriage attempts in the district, official sources said.

According to the National Family Health Survey 2020-21, Ganjam district has 22.3 per cent of women aged 20-24 years who were married before 18 years of age, down from 29.8 per cent in 2015-16. It has reduced to 20.5 per cent in Odisha from 21.3 in 2015-16.

Ironically, the recent incident comes despite the administration declaring 2,042 out of 3,250 villages, 266 out of 286 wards and 221 out of 503 panchayats as child-marriage free in the district.

“More such cases are being reported from different areas because people have become aware of the marriageable age of girls and ill-impact of the child marriage,” Action Aid district coordinator Debabratt Mahunt said.

The administration gives a cash reward of Rs 10,000 to the informer about impending child marriage and has made mandatory verification of Aadhaar card of both the bride and the groom by an anganwadi worker.

It also has a policy of taking action against priests who solemnise child marriage.

Under an initiative, awareness programmes are held in villages, where anganwadi workers and accredited social health activists educate adolescent girls against child marriage on the third Saturday of every month. PTI

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