Two such cases were reported in Tiruvannamalai district last week, officials said
Two child marriages were reported in Tiruvannamalai district last week, when prohibitory orders were in place. Activists state that Child Line –1098 — has been getting calls to report child marriages in Tamil Nadu, mainly from districts, despite the ongoing lockdown.
“One wedding was conducted in Thandrampet and another near Chengam, both in Tiruvannamalai district. They were done inside the house with just family members. We are initiating police action,” said an official.
Child rights activists suspect that most of these weddings were scheduled earlier, before the lockdown came into effect. Since more than five persons cannot gather at a place due to the prohibitory orders, the weddings are conducted within the household as this will not draw much attention.
“Usually a third of the cases are reported by the child itself. But during this period, since parents are at home, it would be impossible for them to report it. Besides, not all children in the villages have mobile phones and before the lockdown, they would take the help of friends to reach the helpline,” said an official from the Social Welfare Department.
Drop in child abuse cases, claim police
Meanwhile, police claim that child abuse cases in the State have reduced. “We received very few cases recently. They were from Dharmapuri, Erode and Neelanagarai in Chennai,” said ADGP M. Ravi, who heads the special wing for crimes against women and children.
He said that this may be because the parents are at home and the children are also not allowed to go outside. “We have also instructed our personnel to monitor child care institutions for incidents of abuse,” he added. Activists pointed out that the number of calls might have come down, not necessarily the number of cases.
Officials from Child Line have also been involved in interventions once they receive calls. “Their staff are still on the ground and are ensuring that all kinds of help reach children. They have been co-ordinating with us. They also have passes to travel across districts and States, so the lockdown is not a problem for them to help children in distress,” said a police officer from the city.
However child rights activists suspect there may be incidents where the children are unable to step out and seek help. Usually, when a child is subjected to sexual or physical abuse, they report it to the nearest police station, or call ChildLine; it is then forwarded to an All Women Police Station. But due to lack of transport facilities, or access to the outside, they may not be able to do this.
“In cases of incest crimes or domestic violence, the victim may not have access to a phone or may not have the privacy to report it. This may also be reason for fewer cases being reported,” said Sherin Bosko, child rights activist and co-founder of Nakshatra, an NGO that works for the rehabilitation of rape victims.
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