She preferred to stay back and suffer loneliness in the welfare home when all her mates headed home in the wake of lockdown in this town in Krishna district.
But why would a 15-year-old do such a thing? Fear of getting married off by her grandmother back home.
First tears, then opens up
“I went to the home to observe the situation during the lockdown. The lone girl came out from a room and started crying inconsolably. I tried in vain to control the girl. After some time she opened up before the counsellor and narrated her problem, which moved my heart,” said State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) member V.S.V. Krishna Kumar.
The Commission Member along with District Probation Officer K. Bhaskar Rao visited the home to observe the COVID-19 protocol, look after the supply of ration, masks, cosmetics and other facilities.
“As per the directions of Supreme Court, High Court and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), we were visiting the Child Care Institutions (CCIs) to take stock of the situation during the pandemic. The issue came to our notice during a visit to a home in Machilipatnam,” Mr. Kumar said.
“The girl was in a disturbed mood as she was staying alone for the last 20 days on a huge premises. Of the 90 inmates in the girls home, 89 returned to their parents. But this girl preferred to stay in the shelter home to avoid the wedding,” Mr. Bhaskar said.
During enquiry, it emerged that the girl was studying in class X, and had lost her parents. She was staying with her grandmother, who got her engaged a few months ago.
‘Want to study, not marry’
“My grandmother is about 75 and suffering from health problems. She decided to perform my marriage as there was no one to take care of me after her. Her thoughts might be correct, but I want to continue my studies and don’t want to go for a child marriage,” the 15-year-old told the SCPCR member.
Mr. Kumar and the DPO, who is also the nodal officer for the CCIs, held discussions with the home organisers on preventing the child marriage. They instructed the CCI management not to allow outsiders into the home and send the girl to her grandmother.
Counselling to grandma and fiance’s family
“We will give counselling to the grandmother, the fiance’s family members soon, and explain to them about Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, and AP Disha Bill – 2019, the punishment for violation of the Acts. Government will ensure that the girl continue her education,” Mr. Kumar told The Hindu.
Women Development and Child Welfare (WD&CW) Director Krithika Shukla said as many as 2,944 orphan children remained in about 270 homes during the lockdown across the State and instructions have been given to the concerned district officials to visit the homes and enquire about the facilities and security of the children staying there.