Child marriage issue

Child marriage issue

News Analysis   /   Child marriage issue

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Published on: November 25, 2021

Save Her Childhood

Source: The Economic Times

Context:

The author talks about the need for efficient & holistic efforts to tackle the child marriage issue.

Editorial Insights:

What's the issue?

A study led by The Lancet shows that up to 2.5 million more girls (below the age of 18) around the world mainly in India were at risk of marriage in the next 5 years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, as per the National Family Health Survey-4 data even before COVID-19, in India one in four girls were being married before 18.

Around 8% of women aged 15-19 years were mothers or pregnant at the time of the survey.

 

Child Marriage & India:

  • United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates suggest that each year, at least 1.5 million girls under 18 get married in India, which makes it home to the largest number of child brides in the world - accounting for a third of the global total.
  • Child marriage prevalence is generally defined as the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before age 18.
  • India is estimated to have over 24 million child brides. 40% of the world’s 60 million child marriages take place in India according to the National Family Health Survey.
  • India has the 14th highest rate of child marriage in the world, according to the International Center for Research on Women.
  • According to a recent district-level household and facility survey (DLHS), conducted for the Health Ministry, the worst state for child marriage is Bihar, where nearly 70% of women in their early twenties reported having been married by the age of 18; the best is Himachal Pradesh at 9%.
  • According to DLHS data, around 48% of married women in the 20-24 year age group got married before 18 in rural areas, compared with 29% in urban areas.

Reasons for early / child marriages:

  • High incidence of Poverty levels in India
  • Low level of education of girls
  • Lower status is given to the girls and considering them as a financial burden,
  • Social customs and traditions.
  • Some parents consider the age period of 15-18 as unproductive, especially for girls, so they start finding a match for their child during this age period.
  • Law and Order are still not able to provide a secure environment for the girls in adolescent age, so some parents get their girl child married at a young age.
  • Prevalence rigid patriarchal norms.
  • Gender Inequality & Control over the sexuality.

 

Implications of Child Marriages:

  • Girls who get married at an early age are often more susceptible to the health risks associated with early sexual initiation and childbearing, including HIV and obstetric fistula,
  • Young girls who lack status, power, and maturity are often subjected to domestic violence, sexual abuse, and social isolation.
  • Early marriage almost always deprives girls of their education or meaningful work, which contributes to persistent poverty.
  • Child Marriage perpetuates an unrelenting cycle of gender inequality, sickness, and poverty.
  • Getting the girls married at an early age when they are not physically mature, leads to the highest rates of maternal and child mortality.
  • Over the years many States apart from the Prohibition of Child Marriage act, used Conditional cash transfers as a main policy instrument to end child marriage. However, these one-size-fits-all conditions alone cannot change the social norms. India needs a comprehensive approach in this regard.

Steps needed to be taken:

Legislative approach:

All states need to follow the Karnataka amendment of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act in 2017, declaring every child marriage void ab initio, making it a cognizable offence, and introducing a minimum period of rigorous imprisonment for all who enable a child marriage.

Other drivers of social change must play a fundamental role:

  • Expansion of secondary education,
  • Improving access to safe and affordable public transport, and
  • Supporting young women to apply their education to earn a livelihood.
  • Expansion of education goes beyond access.
  • Girls must be able to attend school regularly, remain there, and achieve.
  • States can leverage their network of residential schools, girls’ hostels, and public transport, especially in underserved areas, to ensure that teenage girls do not get pushed out of education.
  • Girls’ clubs should be systematically formed in high school to provide informal social networks for group study, solidarity, and resilience.
  • Teachers should hold regular gender equality conversations with high school girls and boys to shape progressive attitudes that will sustain them into adulthood.
  • Empowerment measures are also required to end child marriage, such as:
  • Community engagement through programmes like Mahila Samakhya.
  • Children’s village assemblies in the 2.5 lakh gram panchayats across India can provide a platform for children to voice their concerns.
  • Governmental action can drive social change. Field bureaucrats across multiple departments, including teachers, Anganwadi supervisors, panchayat, and revenue staff, should be notified as child marriage prohibition officers.
  •  Finally, and most important of all, decentralizing birth and marriage registration to gram panchayats will protect women and girls with essential age and marriage documents, thus better enabling them to claim their rights.

 

Conclusion:

It is high time for the Indian govt & States to move away from the one-size-fits-all approach for ending child marriages. The need of the hour is a multi-prolonged approach whereby keeping stringent Legal sanctions on, empowering & educating the girl child & her parents.

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