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Focus: GS-II Social Justice

How prevalent is underage marriage?

  • 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).

How does the age of marriage correlate with health?

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  • Preventing early marriage can reduce the maternal mortality ratio and infant mortality ratio.
  • As of 2018 data, the maternal mortality ratio — the number of maternal deaths for every 100,000 children born — is 113 – dropping from 122 in 2016.
  • Click Here to read more about Maternal Mortality Rate
  • India’s infant mortality ratio shows that 30 of every 1,000 children born in a year die before the age of one.
  • Both these indicators in India are the highest among the BRICS economies.
  • Also, young mothers are more susceptible to anaemia- more than half the women of reproductive age (15-49 years) in India are anaemic.
  • The prevalence of anaemia among women has consistently been high over the last 20 years.

Can a mandated age of marriage bring about a change at population level?

  • Poverty, Limited Access to Education and Economic Prospects, and Security Concerns are the known reasons for early marriage.
  • If the main causes of early marriage are not addressed, a law will not be enough to delay marriage among girls.
  • Women in the poorest 20% of the population married much younger than their peers from the wealthiest 20%.
  • The average age at marriage of women with no schooling was 17.6, considerably lower than that for women educated beyond class 12.
  • Almost 40% of girls aged 15-18 do not attend school, as per a report of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
  • Nearly 65% of these girls are engaged in non-remunerative work.

Hence, many believe that merely tweaking the official age of marriage may discriminate against the poorer, less-educated and marginalised women.

-Source: Indian Express

December 2023