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Child Marriage in India: Lancet Study Findings


A study published in the Lancet Global Health on December 15th, 2023, reveals that one in five girls and one in six boys in India are still getting married below the legal age of marriage. The study compiled data from five National Family Health Surveys spanning from 1993 to 2021.


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Highlights from the Report
  2. Child Marriages in India
  3. Why should the minimum age of marriage for women be raised?
  4. Schemes/Policies to stop girl child marriage

Key Highlights from the Report

  • Call for Urgent Action
    • Researchers emphasize an immediate need for strengthened national and state-level policies to eliminate child marriage by 2030.
  • Regional Disparities
    • Substantial variation exists in the prevalence of girl and boy child marriages across states and Union Territories.
  • Trends Over Time
    • All states, excluding Manipur, witnessed a decline in the prevalence of girl child marriage between 1993 and 2021.
  • Statistics in 2021
    • Researchers estimate 13,464,450 cases of girl child marriage and 1,454,894 cases of boy child marriage in 2021.
  • Concentration in Specific States
    • Bihar, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, and Maharashtra account for over half of the total burden of child marriages in girls.
    • For boys, Gujarat, Bihar, West Bengal, and Uttar Pradesh contribute to over 60 percent of the burden.
  • Notable State-Specific Findings
    • Jharkhand experienced the largest percentage increase in headcount (53.1%) between 1993 and 2021.
    • Most states and Union Territories observed a decrease in the headcount of girl child marriages during this period.
    • Uttar Pradesh led in the most substantial absolute decrease, contributing to about one-third of the all-India decrease in girl child marriage headcount between 1993 and 2021.
    • West Bengal saw the largest absolute increase, with over 500,000 more girls married as children.
Child Marriages in India:
  • From 2005-2006 to 2015-2016, the number of child marriages in India went down from 47.4% to 26.8%.
  • In the last five years, it has gone down by 3.5% points, and the latest data from the National Family Health Survey-5 show that it will be 23.3% in 2020-21.
  • There is a growing trend for the number of child marriages to go down, but 23.3% is still a worryingly high number in a country with 141.2 crore people.
  • According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), eight states have a higher rate of child marriage than the national average. West Bengal, Bihar, and Tripura are at the top of the list, with more than 40% of women aged 20–24 married before they turned 18.
  • Some states, like Madhya Pradesh (down from 32.4% in 2015-16 to 23.1% in 2020-21), Rajasthan (down from 35.4% to 25.4%), and Haryana, have seen a drop in child marriage.
Global Scenario:
  • UNICEF says that 12 million girls get married when they are still young every year.
  • Goal 5 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 is to get rid of all harmful practises, like child, early, and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
  • Legal Intervention in India:
  • There are several laws, such as the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act of 2006 and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act of 2012, that are meant to protect children from violations of their human rights and other rights.
  • The Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, wants to raise the age at which women can get married from 18 to 21.

Why should the minimum age of marriage for women be raised?

  • Lack of access to education and jobs: Because women get married at a younger age, they have less access to education and jobs than men.
  • Women who get married at a young age often can’t go to school or get a job.
  • If the minimum age for marriage goes up, more women will go to college and work instead of getting married.
  • Effects of early marriage on the health of women and children: o Getting married and having children at a young age has a big effect on how well mothers and their children eat and on their overall health and mental health.
  • Young mothers have a higher chance of having problems with their reproductive health, being malnourished, bleeding after giving birth, and getting sexually transmitted diseases.

Schemes/Policies to stop girl child marriage:

  • Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana (SSY) – SSY was started in 2015 to help girls.
  • It encourages parents to invest and save money for their daughter’s future education and wedding costs.
  • Balika Samriddhi Yojana – The Balika Samriddhi Yojana is another programme run by the central government to help girls from poor families.
  • This plan makes sure that girls get into and stay in elementary and secondary schools.
  • It tries to help a girl’s child do well in life and gives them a better education.
  • Beti Bachao Beti Padhao is the most popular programme for helping girls.
  • This plan is a way to honour girls. Its name, Save the Girl Child, Educate the Girl Child, means exactly what it says. It believes in empowering women and making an environment where everyone can do that.
  • The goal of this plan is to keep girls safe before and after they are born.

-Source: Indian Express

February 2024