Telangana’s ‘Kalyana Lakshmi’ scheme does little to prevent child marriages, says study

Child Marriage
Its cash incentive to brides only reinforced the idea that the ultimate goal of a woman is to get married, states the study by a child welfare group.
The ‘Kalyana Lakshmi’ scheme introduced by the Telangana government offering an incentive of Rs 75,000 to brides has only reinforced the idea that the ultimate goal of a woman is to get married, says a study carried out by a child welfare group.
The scheme was introduced with the aim of preventing child marriage.   
During its study, the MV Foundation had a meeting with over 600 girls studying in school and colleges, and everyone unanimously condemned the scheme. Instead, the study titled ‘Voices of married girls in Telangana’ suggests that the budget of Rs 400 crore be allocated for education.
“Soft schemes like Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao and Kalyana Lakshmi are just tokenism projects,” said Prof Shanta Sinha, former Chairperson of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, who co-authored the study, which was released in Hyderabad on Friday.  
While ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ is a campaign by the union government to create awareness to eradicate female foeticide and promote education of girls, Kalyana Lakshmi was introduced by the Telangana government for women belonging to the SC/ST community and those below the poverty line. It was subsequently extended to the BC communities.
The idea behind Kalyana Lakshmi was in light of several parents getting their daughters married at an early age to avoid paying more dowry. The cash incentive is to ensure that parents would continue to provide education to girls until they turn 18 and they will not get her married.
However, these are just soft schemes which really don’t prevent child marriages, Prof Sinha claimed.
Alleging that the state is complicit in not preventing child marriage, she said, “The state has an obligation by law to protect girls- whether in preventing her from being pushed out of school, providing support to stop child marriage, providing her healthcare, food and nutritional security, saving her from gender discrimination, violence and sexual abuse. By not doing this, the state denies girls of their entitlements guaranteed by the Constitution of India.”
The study was based on detailed interviews of 46 married girls and 26 girls whose marriages were prevented. The girls belonged to Nalgonda, Ranga Reddy, Mahbubnagar and Hyderabad.
According to the study, 78% of girls stated that their health had deteriorated, 30% of them complained of body aches and pains after marriage and 15% of them were mentally depressed.
The study also faulted the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) 2006. Sinha stated that the PCMA has serious flaws as it doesn’t make child marriage totally voidable. She said that PCMA is based on the assumption that marriage has its own sanctity and is bound by tradition and culture that have to be respected. It assumes no difference between a girl child and an adult woman and fails to respect their specific constitutional rights. Therefore, sanctity of marriage is a norm for both children and adult women. “It expects the girl to seek annulment when it is well known that even adult women do not have the capacity to withstand the pressures of breaking a marriage and seeking divorce,” the professor lamented.
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