Child marriage is the worst form of exploitation. Worst because, it happens right in front of our eyes, sometimes in the name of tradition, sometimes in the name of patriarchy and sometimes in the name of security and future of the girl child.
The Planning commission published a report on Child marriage in November, 2014. The report was based on a study that was conducted in 10 states (Bihar, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Gujarat & Orissa) and on previous research reports by other organizations. In each selected state, 2 districts have been randomly selected from the list of districts reporting high rate of child marriages. The sample size comprised of victims of child marriages, parents, representatives of Panchayats, community based organizations (CBO), Self Help Groups (SHG) and officials.
Child marriage as a global phenomenon
According to this report, globally more than 60 million women were married before they reached age of 18 years. Although, the extent of child marriage varies substantially between countries, about half of the girls who were affected live in South Asia. One in seven girls in the developing world marries before 15. Nearly half of the 331 million girls in developing countries are expected to marry by their 20th birthday (as per data in 2004). According to figures available from 2007-08, about 43% of women in India are married off before the age of 18 which is the legal age for marriage.
So what is the situation in the 10 selected states?
As per the data available from 2007-08, the percentage of women who were married before the age of 18 was significantly high in Bihar (68.2 per cent) followed by Rajasthan (57.6 per cent), Jharkhand (55.7 per cent), Uttar Pradesh (54.9 per cent) and West Bengal (54.8 per cent). These percentages were comparatively lower in Gujarat (35.4 per cent) and Orissa (37.5 per cent).
|State||Percentage of women married before the age of 18|
Were the offenders aware of the Child Marriage prohibition Act?
The parents were asked whether they are aware about the Child Marriage Prohibition Act. About 3/4th respondents reported that they are not aware about the Child Marriage Prohibition Act. This was found more pronounced in Uttar Pradesh (80.2 per cent). Only 23 percent respondents were aware of the Child Marriage Prohibition Act.
What are the main reasons for early marriage?
The main reasons of early marriage for both male and female children vary. Parents of daughters reported that the main reasons for early marriage of their girls are safety and security problems of girls, traditional system, pressure from relatives, economic hardship and poverty as well as demand of dowry. The parents of boys reported that the main reasons for early marriage of their boys are pressure from relatives and family members, traditional system, economic hardship and poverty as well as land ownership related issues.
There are many ways in which the early marriage changes the lives of the children. From increased family pressure to start earning to start having babies, the effects of pregnancy on the girl child are very devastating.
What does the report finally say?
- Child marriages are not just because of traditions, but many other reasons as mentioned above. Poverty & lesser demand for dowry are also major reasons.
- The offenders were not aware of the Child Marriage prohibition act
- Law enforcement has to be made accountable. Passing the laws are only the first step, implementing and executing them in accordance with the law are also important, in fact, more important.
Hence there is a great need to create awareness about the ill effects of the early child marriages and also about the legal implications of the early child marriage.
Featured Image Source: Sam Nasim | Flickr