More than 2,000 men arrested in crackdown on illegal child marriages in India

Police in India have arrested more than 2,000 men in a crackdown on illegal child marriages.

Among those arrested were more than 50 Hindu priests and Muslim clerics for allegedly performing marriages for girls under the age of 18 in the northeastern state of Assam, police said.

Many cases of child marriage in Assam go unreported.

In India, men are legally allowed to marry aged 21 and women at 18.

TV footage showed some young women with infants in their arms crying and protesting against the sudden arrests of their husbands.

One woman asked: “We were struggling and somehow making ends meet. But we were happy together. Who will provide for our livelihood now that my husband has been arrested?”

State police chief Gyanendra Pratap Singh said child marriages were one reason behind the state’s high infant mortality and maternal mortality rates.

Himanta Biswa Sarma, the state’s top elected official, said: “I have asked the Assam police to act with a spirit of zero tolerance against the unpardonable and heinous crime on women.”

India’s parliament is considering raising the age of marriage for women from 18 to 21 in order to bring it in line with men and promote gender equality.

Poverty, lack of education and social norms and practices, particularly in rural areas, are considered to be the reasons behind child marriages across the country.

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