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Crackdown Aims to Halt Child Marriages in India

DEFYING laws against child marriage, hundreds of secret ceremonies - some involving mere infants - were performed this last week in one of India's most tradition-bound states.

Still, a massive police crackdown and a government campaign kept the number of such unions far below the estimated 30,000 child marriages routinely performed until a few years ago, United News of India (UNI) reported May 14.

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The centuries-old practice is most prevalent in the northern state of Rajasthan, a poor, desert region. The children are pronounced man and wife on the first and second days of the full-moon cycle in May, considered an auspicious time by Hindus. Thousands of policemen patrolled the villages of Rajasthan on May 13 to thwart the weddings, most of which involve children under age 7.

Also for the first time, the government published full-page newspaper ads warning parents they faced fines and three months in prison for violating a law that sets the minimum age for marriage at 18 for women and 21 for men. There is no record of a single conviction in Rajasthan for violating that law.

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