"We have so far arrested 2,169 men"
More than 2,000 men have been arrested across the Indian state of Assam in a police crackdown on child marriages.
They have been arrested for either marrying or arranging the marriages of children.
Those arrested included more than 50 Hindu priests and Muslim clerics for allegedly performing marriages for underage girls in Assam.
In India, 18 is the minimum age for marriage, yet this law is frequently broken.
Assam’s police head, Gyanendra Pratap Singh, said there will be more arrests in the days to come.
The arrests will focus on those who assisted in registering such weddings in mosques and temples.
Singh said: “We have so far arrested 2,169 men based on 4,074 registered police cases involving a total of about 8,000 men.”
Himanta Biswa Sarma, the Chief Minister of Assam, said that the police will have the authority to detain anyone who has participated in the practice of child marriage during the last seven years.
He said: “I have asked Assam police to act with a spirit of zero tolerance against the unpardonable and heinous crime on women.”
Following the federal rules of India, the state government had earlier declared that it would make arrests of illegal child marriage cases.
Men who marry girls younger than 14 are subject to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act, while those who marry girls between the ages of 14 and 18 are subject to arrest under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act.
State wide arrests are presently underway against those violating provisions of Prohibhiton of Child Marriage Act .
1800 + have been arrested so far.
I have asked @assampolice to act with a spirit of zero tolerance against the unpardonable and heinous crime on women
— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) February 3, 2023
Authorities said in January 2023 that the weddings would be deemed unlawful, and if a boy was proven to be younger than 14, he would be transferred to a rehabilitation centre.
Chief Minister Sarma said: “Child marriage is the primary reason behind child pregnancy, which in turn is responsible for high maternal and infant mortality rates.”
Biswa Sarma continued to point at all religious faiths contributing to the growing issue of child exploitation:
“From Muslims to Hindus, Christians, tribal people, to those belonging to the tea garden communities.
“There are men from all faiths and communities who got arrested for this heinous social crime.”
According to the National Family Health Survey of India, Assam has the third highest infant mortality rate in the country, with 32 deaths per 1,000 live births.
The UN estimates that India has 223 million child brides, making it the country with the most child brides worldwide.
UNICEF stated in a study from 2020 that at least 1.5 million teenage girls were married off each year in India.