CURTAIN RAISER: NHRC's two day's National Conference on Child Marriage in Delhi from 29th -30th August, 2018 (28.08.2018)

New Delhi, 28th August, 2018
The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, India is organising two day's 'National Conference on Child Marriage' in collaboration with the South Asia Initiative to End Violence against Children (SAIEVAC) at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi tomorrow on the 29th August, 2018.

The main objective of the Conference is to revisit the issue of child marriage from a human rights perspective at the national level by consulting experts from the government and non-government organizations, civil society organizations and other forums so as to make a call for a national action plan on ending child marriage and set a time target to achieve this.

In India, according to the NFHS-3 and NFHS-4 data, there is a significant decline in the actual percentage of child marriage both for females (20.6%) and males (12%). The national average of child marriage for females is down from 47.4% to 26.8% and for males from 32.3%to 20.3%. However, it becomes imperative to focus on analyzing and addressing the percentage in which the practice still persists for various reasons despite a decades-old law banning girls under the age of 18 - and boys under 21 - from marrying. This has been a longstanding problem that has lead to widespread exploitation of young girls, as well as stealing their childhood.

The Constitution of India directs the Indian State and society to protect and safeguard children against 'exploitation and moral and material abandonment'. This directive extends to the responsibility to put an end to practices like child marriage that deny fair protection of childhood. It is not only a question of child protection; it is a serious human rights violation, placing children at high risk of violence, exploitation and abuse, effectively undermining their rights to childhood, and leading to a lifetime of disadvantage and deprivation - or early death.

The Conference, besides the inaugural session, will be divided into five thematic sessions, which will examine/review existing legal and policy frameworks and their application, identify gaps and distil out strategic interventions to end child marriage. The development of this initiative, thus, is a uniquely participatory process in India and is further supported by the CSO Coalition to End Child Marriage.

Besides, the NHRC Member, Mrs. Jyotika Kalra, Secretary General, Mr. Ambuj Sharma and other senior officers, SAIEVAC Director General, Dr. Rinchen Chophel, CSO Coalition representative, Ms Razia Ismail, a multi-stakeholder participation is expected and senior officials from the Ministry of Women and Child Development, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights, including subject experts in law, development and culture and representatives of civil society organizations, are expected to engage actively in this effort. The invited States are- Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

The conference is expected to conclude with a call for national action in a 'mission mode' with 'time-targets' and commitment to end child marriage in India. It carries the hope to help generate wider public awareness and the social will to change.