Police swung into action following a complaint filed by Barpeta-based child rights activist Rafiqul Islam. However, the wedding rituals were over when the police team reached the place. The girl has been rescued and sent to a home.
Kadam Afi, 25, the bridegroom, the bride’s uncle Nabur Uddin and Jasim Uddin, a kazi by profession who solemnized the marriage, were arrested from the wedding venue at Pub Chatla village under Sarthebari police station, about 30km from the district headquarters. The other arrested persons are Jinnat Ali, Habibar Rahman, Gaher Chand Ali, Abdullah Ali, Sharif Ali and Naskar Ali.
“The marriage was solemnized in sharp violation of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. A case was registered under Sections 9,10 and 11 of the act and all the nine accused helped in the execution, arrangement and solemnization of the marriage. A court has sent them to 14 days judicial custody,” sub-inspector of Sarthebari police, Pranab Kumai Das, said.
He said that the girl is studying in Class 10 while the bridegroom is a labourer.
Rafiqul told TOI that during the pandemic, most child marriages are going unreported though those are highly prevalent.
“Most marriages are kept secret and there would be very few in the police record. The actual number is much higher than the figures in the report. I receive at least one case of child marriage a day Only relatives would know. Sometimes a person of social influence knows. The kazi plays a key role in fudging the girl’s age. Sometimes the girls are taken to distant relatives’ places to hide their age,” Rafiqul, who is working in this field for the past many years, said.
He said that the main reasons behind such marriages are poverty and lack of education. “Many such families believe that sooner their boys get married, another member will be added to their families, who will contribute to the family income, caring least about the health of the minor mother and her child,” Rafiqul added.
Chittapriyo Sadhu of Save the Children NGO said the Covid-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented situation.
“It has resulted in increased poverty, hunger, disruption of school education and lack of care and protection of children,” Sadhu said.