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Bandhan Tod : The Latest Mobile App to End Child Marriage in India’s Bihar

Despite a law banning girls from marrying before they turn 18, the practice is deeply rooted in tradition and widely accepted in Indian society.

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Child marriage
Child bride Krishna, 12, stands at a doorway into her compound in a village near Baran, in India's Rajasthan state. Despite a law banning girls from marrying before they turn 18, the practice is deeply rooted in tradition and widely accepted in Indian society. (VOA)

Bihar, September 20, 2017 : A mobile phone app is the latest tool for campaigners seeking to end child marriage in India’s Bihar state, where nearly two-thirds of girls in some of its rural areas are married before the legal age of 18.

The app, Bandhan Tod, was developed by Gender Alliance — a collective of more than 270 charities in Bihar focused on gender rights — and launched this week by Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi. It is backed by the U.N. Population Fund.

India ranks among countries with the highest rates of child marriage in the world, accounting for a third of the global total of more than 700 million women, according to UNICEF, the United Nations children’s agency.

Bandhan Tod — meaning “break the binds” — includes classes on child marriage and dowries and their ill effects. It also has an SOS button that notifies the team when activated.

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“The app is a big part of our efforts to end child marriage in the state,” said Prashanti Tiwary, head of Gender Alliance.

“Education is good, but when a young girl wants help because she is being forced to marry before the legal age, the app can be her way out,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Despite a law banning girls from marrying before they turn 18, the practice is deeply rooted in tradition and widely accepted in Indian society. It is rarely reported as a crime and officials are often reluctant to prosecute offenders.

While boys also marry before the legal age of 21, girls are disproportionately affected.

Risks of abuse, death rise

Early marriage makes it more likely that girls will drop out of school, and campaigners say it also increases risks of sexual violence, domestic abuse and death in childbirth.

Legal efforts have failed to break the stranglehold of tradition and culture that continues to support child marriage, charity ActionAid India said in a report this year.

When the SOS on Bandhan Tod is activated, the nearest small NGO will attempt to resolve the issue. If the family resists, then the police will be notified, said Tiwary.

A similar app in West Bengal state to report child marriage and trafficking of women and children has helped prevent several such instances, according to Child in Need Institute, which launched the app in 2015.

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Other efforts include a cash incentive, where the state transfers a sum of money to the girl’s bank account if she remains in school and unwed at age 18.

Suppliers of wedding tents in Rajasthan state have stopped dozens of child marriages by alerting officials.

“It will take a change in mindset and behavior to end child marriage,” said Tiwary, who is lobbying the government to raise the marriage age for women to 21, so they have the same opportunities as men.

“But technology provides a practical and accessible way to help prevent it on the ground,” she said. (VOA)

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Millions Of Urban Children in Worse Condition Than Rural People: UNICEF

ICLEI, a global network of more than 1,500 cities, towns and regions, said disasters were more likely to impact the most vulnerable in cities, including children.

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Urban CHildren
A girl sells candies along a street in the Miraflores district in Lima. VOA

Millions of poor urban children are more likely to die before their fifth birthday than those living in rural areas, according to a U.N. study released Tuesday that challenges popular assumptions behind the global urbanization trend.

The UNICEF research found not all children in cities benefited from the so-called urban advantage — the idea that higher incomes, better infrastructure and proximity to services make for better lives.

“For rural parents, at face-value, the reasons to migrate to cities seem obvious: better access to jobs, health care and education opportunities for their children,” said Laurence Chandy, UNICEF director of data, research and policy.

urban children
Children play in a pool that has no system to replace the water in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 13, 2015. Brazil is among the world’s largest economies, but lags in access to water and sanitation. Rapid urban growth in recent decades, poor planning, political infighting and economic instability are largely to blame, experts say. VOA

“But not all urban children are benefiting equally; we find evidence of millions of children in urban areas who fare worse than their rural peers.”

Although most urban children benefit from living in cities, the study identified 4.3 million globally who were more likely to die before age five than their rural counterparts, and said 13.4 million were less likely to complete primary school.

“Children should be a focus of urban planning, yet in many cities they are forgotten, with millions of children cut off from social services in urban slums and informal settlements,” said Chandy in a statement.

Urban Children
A mother seeking entry into the United States with her children in McAllen, Texas. VOA

About 1 billion people are estimated to live in slums globally, hundreds of millions of them children, according to the U.N. children’s agency.

A decade ago, the world officially became majority urban, and two-thirds of the global population is expected to live in urban areas by 2050, according to the United Nations.

“We applaud UNICEF for putting numbers around a problem that will only get more serious as more and more families move to cities,” said Patrin Watanatada of the Bernard van Leer Foundation, which works to promote early childhood development. “Cities can be wonderful places to grow up, rich with opportunities — but they can also pose serious challenges for a child’s healthy development.”

 Urban children
New campaign to limit children’s calories to 200 per day. wikimedia commons

Poor transport links, limited access to health clinics and parks, as well as growing air pollution and stressed caregivers can exacerbate city living for children, said Watanatada.

Improved walking and cycling infrastructure, affordable housing and transportation, and polices targeted at supporting children and those who care for them could help ease life for urban families.

Also Read: Ebola Increases The Number Of Orphans in DRC: UNICEF

ICLEI, a global network of more than 1,500 cities, towns and regions, said disasters were more likely to impact the most vulnerable in cities, including children.

“Children are disproportionately affected by gaps in urban services, especially when it comes to water, sanitation, air quality, and food security,” said Yunus Arikan, head of global policy and advocacy at ICLEI. (VOA)