Bhubaneswar: In a unique initiative, the Sonepur district administration has sought the support of tent house suppliers and temple priests to stop the menace of early marriages.
District magistrate Dasarathi Satapathy, in a letter to different tent house associations and temple management committees has urged them to boycott marriages of minor -aged girls and instead report the matter to police.
The letter explained in detail how early marriage affects lives of young girls who are forced to discontinue their education. "It also increases the chance of infant mortality and exposed the girls to maternal health risks, " the letter read.Any male who enters into a marriage with a girl less than 18 years of age or anyone who directs or conducts a child marriage ceremony can be punished with up to two years of imprisonment or a fine, letter from the district collector read.
Requesting their cooperation, Sathpathy asked the owners and staff of tent houses and temple committee members to spread awareness regarding such matter.
"In almost all Hindu families, the priests decide on the dates of wedding by studying the almanac and holy calendar. They would be the first to know of age of the couple and can do the needful," said Subhashree Jena, a government employee.
"In fact families will be better convinced if the priests explain them about the demerits of early marriages . It's a wonderful move by the district administration and should be replicated in other places as well ,"said Ghasiram Panda , Programme Manager Action Aid.
Many tent house owners have appreciated the move and come out in support of the campaign. "We are happy to have been contacted by the Collector. I am convinced about the importance of education for girl children and will certainly do whatever possible on my part to curb this crime of child marriage," said Jagannath Sahoo, a tent supplier.