The Catholic Church in West Bengal has realized that the only way to crack down on social evils like child marriages is to brandish the stick.[That's about $70. Probably close to or more than a month's wages for many.]
The Krishnanagar Diocese, about 130 kilometers away from Kolkatta, is the first one to have cracked the whip by penalising families who got their children married off. The punishment ranged from a fine of Rs. 3000 to excommunication.
Bishop Joseph Gomes said that the Diocese had decided that everybody has to follow the law and anyone found flouting it would be punished. "We will not baptise children of guilty families and prevent them from attending church functions. Girls have to be 18 and men 21 to get married and everyone has to follow that." he said.That's the law across the country. I would like to know how they would "prevent" people from attending church "functions" (but not the liturgy?).
It just struck me, a dyed-in-the-wool American Catholic as somewhat strange that the church could actully levy fines. Try that in the US! Anyway, it's clear this is a big problem out there, and the church felt compelled to respond. An interesting reference to ethnic customs:
Herod Mullik of the Bangiya Christian Pariseba, a forum of Christians in Bengal, said traditional customs like child marraiges were prevalent particularly in the tribal belt 'where people continue to retain their ethnicity. Where people flout existing laws, it is for the Church to take punitive action to keep its community law abiding," he said.I would interpret, "retain their ethnicity" to mean, "continue in their pre-Christian customs." And, I wonder which other laws fall under the purview of the Church to help enforce? Clearly, a different role for the Church in the society.