Some activists and organisations of Karnataka have raised the issue of increased child marriages in Lockdown with the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
According to a report published in December 2020 by ChildLine India, the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown have proved to be new drivers of child marriages in rural Madhya Pradesh.
GS-II: Social Justice (Issues related to women and children, Government Initiatives and Schemes), GS-I: Indian Society
Dimensions of the Article:
- How prevalent is underage marriage?
- Significance of Child-marriage in India
- Why is child-marriage is so prevalent?
- Why are there Increased Child Marriages during Lockdowns?
How prevalent is underage marriage?
- In India, Child-marriage is the marriage of a girl or boy before the age of 18 and refers to both formal marriages and informal unions in which children under the age of 18 live with a partner as if married.
- Data show that the majority of women in India marry after the age of 21.
- Although, the mean age of women at marriage is 22.1 years, and more than 21 in all states- this does not mean that child marriages have disappeared.
- The latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) found that about 26.8% of women aged 20-24 were married before adulthood (age 18).
- 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.
- Recent study by The Lancet shows that up to 2.5 million more girls (below the age of 18) around the world are at risk of marriage in the next 5 years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Significance of Child-marriage in India
- Child Marriage contributes to larger families and in turn, population growth. This delays the demographic dividend that would have come from reduced fertility and investment in education.
- Children married at a young age do not understand the responsibilities of marriage. This results in a lack of understanding among family members. Hence, disturbs the institution of the family.
- It negatively influences children’s rights to education, health and protection as a girl who is married as a child is more likely to be out of school and not earn money and contribute to the community.
- A girl married at such a young age is more likely to experience domestic violence and become infected with HIV/AIDS and also there are more chances of her dying due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth.
Why is child-marriage is so prevalent?
The primary reasons for Child-marriage are:
- Political and financial reasons,
- Lack of education,
- Gender inequalities, etc.
- 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.
- The Right To Education Act makes education free and compulsory up to the age of 14 only – pointing towards inadequacy in the compulsory norm.
Why are there Increased Child Marriages during Lockdowns?
- Earlier, when child marriages happened at wedding halls, temples, etc, there were people who would alert the relevant authorities or activists who would be able to reach on time to stop it. But now, with marriages happening at homes, we may get fewer alerts and our going there could be treated as trespass.
- Economic pressures due to the pandemic have pushed poor parents to marry off girls early.
- With no schools, safety of children, particularly girls, was a major reason for increase in violence against children and child marriages.
-Source: The Hindu