Infamous for witchcraft killings, Jharkhand has earned the disrepute of having the highest percentage of underage girls getting married, according to the latest demographic sample survey by the Union Home Ministry.
The percentage of girls getting married before attaining majority is as high as 5.8 in Jharkhand, according to the survey brought out by the office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, Ministry of Home Affairs.
"The percentage of females who got effectively married before reaching 18 years of age is 1.9 at the national level and varies from 0.0 in Kerala to 5.8 in Jharkhand," the survey said.
In Jharkhand, child marriages accounted for 7.3 per cent of marriages in rural areas and three per cent in urban areas.
The Sample Registration System (SRS) Statistical Report contains estimates of various demographic, fertility and mortality indicators based on the data collected through one of the largest demographic surveys in the world covering about 8.4 million sample population. The survey was conducted in 2020 and the report was published late last month.
Jharkhand and West Bengal are the only two states in the country where more than half of the women are married before the age of 21 years.
The survey said that while 54.9 per cent of girls are married in West Bengal before attaining the age of 21 years, the figure for Jharkhand is 54.6 per cent as against the national average of 29.5 per cent.
Meanwhile, as per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 32 people were killed on allegations of practising witchcraft in Jharkhand in 2015, 27 in 2016, 19 in 2017, 18 in 2018, and 15 each in 2019 and 2020.
Jharkhand was in the limelight recently after a minor girl was set ablaze for spurning the advances of a man. The main accused had allegedly poured petrol on the girl from outside the window of her room when she was sleeping and set her on fire on August 23. The teenager succumbed to her injuries four days later and the accused and the man who had supplied petrol to him were arrested.
Another 14-year-old tribal girl, allegedly sexually exploited by a man on the pretext of marriage, was found hanging from a tree in Dumka on September 2. Her mother had claimed that she was raped and killed and the accused has been arrested.
The two incidents are being probed by the National Commission for Women and National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.