Jharkhand’s DOUBLE distinction: State has a maximum number of underage girls to get married

Ranchi: Notorious for witchcraft murders, Jharkhand has earned a reputation for having the highest percentage of underage girls marrying, according to the latest demographic sample survey by the union’s home ministry. The percentage of girls who get married before they come of age is a staggering 5.8 in Jharkhand, according to the survey by the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, Ministry of Home Affairs. “The percentage of women who effectively married before they were 18 years old is 1.9 nationally and ranges from 0.0 in Kerala to 5.8 in Jharkhand,” the survey said. In Jharkhand, child marriages accounted for 7.3 percent of marriages in rural areas and three percent in urban areas.

The Sample Registration System (SRS) Statistical Report provides estimates of various demographic, fertility and mortality indicators based on data collected through one of the largest demographic surveys in the world covering approximately 8.4 million sample populations. The survey was conducted in 2020 and the report was published late last month. Jharkhand and West Bengal are the only two states in the country where more than half of women are married before reaching the age of 21.

The survey said that while 54.9 percent of girls in West Bengal are married before reaching the age of 21, the figure for Jharkhand is 54.6 percent, against the national average of 29.5 percent. Meanwhile, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 32 people were killed on charges of practicing witchcraft in Jharkhand in 2015, 27 in 2016, 19 in 2017, 18 in 2018 and 15 each in 2019 and 2020.

Jharkhand recently came under the spotlight after an underage girl was set on fire for rejecting a man’s advances. The prime suspect allegedly poured gasoline on the girl from outside her room window on Aug. 23 while she was asleep and set her on fire. The teen succumbed to her injuries four days later, and the suspect and the man who supplied him with gasoline were arrested.

Another 14-year-old girl from a tribe, allegedly sexually exploited by a man on the pretext of marriage, was found hanging from a tree in Dumka on September 2. Her mother claimed she was raped and murdered and the accused has been arrested. The two incidents are under investigation by the National Commission for Women and National Commission for Protection of Child Rights. A teenage girl suffered an acid attack and was sent to AIIMS in New Delhi by the state government for better treatment.

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