After getting an overwhelming response from people, especially women, for imposing liquor prohibition in Bihar, chief minister Nitish Kumar urged the masses to join him in his effort to blot out social evils such as dowry and child marriages.
In a traditionally caste-based and male-dominated society, these issues had got sort of a social approval for centuries. Donning the cap of a social reformist Mr Kumar launched a campaign to eliminate these evils with the participation of the people.
“This movement will eradicate social evils such as child marriages and dowry that have plagued the country, including Bihar, for centuries together. Public participation is important to eliminate such evils,” the chief minister said, while kick-starting a campaign in Patna on Monday.
According to reports, the prevalence of child marriage in Bihar is 40 per cent, while dowry-related cases have been a major cause of violence against women in the state. The survey reports suggest that Bihar ranks second in the country when it comes to dowry-related cases. In 2016 alone, 987 cases of dowry deaths were registered in Bihar while the total number of dowry-related cases was 4,852.
As per household survey data recorded in 2015, Jamui district topped in percentage-wise in child marriages of girls, closely followed by Banka, Nawada, Samastipur and West Champaran districts.
Despite an overall decline in the rate of child marriages in India, Bihar continues to have a high percentage of such marriages. The survey reports also show the cases related to child marriages have dropped by only 11 per cent in the past 15 years.
Activists, closely analysing the annual health survey reports, feel that minimal decline in percentage doesn’t guarantee children their full rights in terms of education and health and right to self-determination.
“Education can significantly play the role of a game-changer when it comes to adolescent girls getting married off and bearing children before they are prepared, both physically and mentally,” NGO Child Rights and You eastern region programme head M. Chatterjee said.
Mr Kumar said cases of these social evils have grown despite tough laws. Bihar is the first state to introduce anti-dowry act way back in 1950, 11 years before such a law was passed by the Parliament. Still, Bihar records 15 per cent of dowry-related deaths in the country.