As per the Indian law, the eligibility for marriage is 18 for girls and 21 for boys. However, India is one of the countries having the largest number of brides approximately one-third of the global total. Child marriage is an evil practice that is deeply rooted in the society which spreads discrimination and gender inequality. Child marriage not only affects girls but also boys. They both are deprived of their childhood, education, social rights, and burdened by responsibilities over their shoulder at a very younger age. According to a report of UNICEF, each year at least 1.5 million get married under the age of 18 which makes it clear that India is home for the largest number of brides. Child marriage is one of the reasons for girls’ untimely death or an early age death due to adolescent pregnancy. Child marriage also accentuates sexual abusing, domestic violence, gender inequality, illiteracy, and other suppression by society.

“There is no reason. There is no excuse, Child marriage is child abuse” 

Here are some recent data about child marriage in India:

  • Nearly 16% of adolescent girls aged 15-19 are currently married. (UNICEF/UNO276216)
  • According to the Dasra report, almost 50% of girls in India are married before they turn 18 and 20% are married under the age of 15 years old. (Marry me later- Delaying marriage and pregnancy in India, 2014)
  • In the year 2005-2006, the rates of child marriage decreased from 47% to 27% but in the year 2015-2016, the rates increased again. (UNICEF/UNO276216) 
  • Almost 27% of Indian girls give birth to a child by the age of 18. (Marry me later- Delaying marriage and pregnancy in India, 2014)
  • The chances of death of girls under the age of 15 years are five times more than the women in their 20s during the childbirth. (Marry me later- Delaying marriage and pregnancy in India, 2014)
  • “India constitutes more than 20% of the world’s adolescent population and accounts for the highest number of child marriages in South Asia given its sizes and population,” said ‘Javier Aguilar’ UNICEF CHIEF of child production. (UNICEF report by ‘Their World’)
  • According to National Family Health Survey-4, conducted in 2015-2016, shows a decline in the % of child marriage. The national average for child marriages now is 11.9% of all girls age 15-19. (Times Of India)
  • According to the Global Childhood Report by the UK NGO ‘Save the children, India’ teen births have been cut down by 63% since 2000 and 75% since 1990 by increasing scores from 632 to 769 on Childhood index up 137 points. (Economic times 2019)

As we know, child marriage has been practiced for centuries as cultural and societal practice in India and hence it is difficult to remove it from its root but nowadays people become educated and become more aware of their social rights and health of women. India with the guidance of UNICEF tries to mitigate child marriage in the urban as well as in the rural areas by spreading awareness. 

We all need to take steps against child marriage together to give justice to those children who are still deprived of their rights, education, and childhood.

-By Jyoti Lodhi

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