Child Marriages in India – UPSC GS2

  • Globally, one in five (21%) of women are subjected to child marriage : World Population Report
  • As per the Fourth National Family Health Survey of 2015-16, there are 26.8% of brides in the country who were married below the age of 18.
  • As per World Population Report 32% of Indian women who had been married before the age of 18 had experienced physical abuse from their husbands, compared to 17% for those who married as adults.
  • India stood 11th in the worldwide rank of countries with high incidence of child marriages.
  • As many as 39,000 minor girls are being married every day in India
  • Legal provisions : Prohibition of Child Marriages Act, 2006.
  • Every third child bride in the world is an Indian.
Why child marriage happens?
  • Domestic work and care performed by women.
  • A belief that girls need to marry early for their safety and protection.
  • Apprehensions about the risk to family honour or economic burden.
  • World Population Report said that the drivers of child marriage are (#diagram)
    • poverty,
    • insecurity and
    • limited access to quality education and work opportunities.
  • These factors mean that child marriage is often seen as the best option for girls, or as a means to reduce the economic burden on the family.
 What are the negatives of child marriages?
  • Violates girl human rights.
  • Lack of opportunities for women in society.
  • Impacts their overall personality from education to health.
  • Exposed to domestic abuse.
  • Women will have less decision-making powers.
There are several other outcomes that will also occur. Such as teenage pregnancy, population growth, child stunting, poor learning outcomes for children and the loss of women’s participation in the workforce etc.
What are the hurdles in stopping child marriages?
  • Patriarchal mindset
  • One size fits all approach: Although the government introduced various schemes like Conditional Cash Transfers, all failed to show the desired result.
What are the government initiatives to stop child marriages?
Karnataka amended the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act in 2017 declaring every child marriage void, making it a cognizable offense and providing harsh punishment for those involved in child marriages.
Way Forward:
  • Introduce various reforms: Like the expansion of secondary education, access to safe and affordable public transport, and support for young women to apply their education to earn a livelihood.
  • Education: Teachers should hold regular gender equality conversations with high school girls and boys to shape progressive attitudes that will sustain them into adulthood.
  • Community engagement: through programmes like Mahila Samakhya.
  • Involvement of various stakeholders: Bureaucrats across multiple departments, teachers, Anganwadi supervisors, panchayat and others interacting with rural communities, should be notified as child marriage prohibition officers.
  • Decentralized approach: Decentralising birth and marriage registration to gram panchayats will protect women and girls with essential age and marriage documents, thus better enabling them to claim their rights.
Petition filed by NGO Independent Thought:
  • Contention: Petition challenges the Exception to Section 375 (rape) of the Indian Penal Code, which permits “intrusive sexual intercourse with a girl child aged between 15 and 18 only on the ground that she is married.”
  • The Exception is part of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2013 and is contrary to the anti-child sex abuse law, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act of 2012 (POCSO).
UNICEF Report:
  • As per UNICEF the proportion of girls getting married in India has nearly halved in a decade which has contributed significantly to a global decline in child marriage.
Despite the spread of education and awareness, in some parts of the country the practice of child marriage is rampant. Critically examine the social, cultural and economic reasons behind such practices. (200 Words)
Child marriage is a marriage in which the age of groom is below 21 years and bride below 18 years. Child marriage denies the child with basic right to good health, nutrition and education. Early marriage makes girls more vulnerable to violence. Reasons of child marriages in India:
  1. Value of virginity: It is believed that husband needs virgin wife and if the daughter had premarital sex it will dishonor their family.
  2. Gender norms: males are more valued in Indian family and women primary role is to produce son.
  3. Dowry: If the girl is married at lower age they may not demand dowry as the girl is pure and believed to be incarnation of goddess Laxmi.
  4. Families see it as protection against sexual assault.
  1. Girl child is seen as economic burden on family considered as ‘paraya dhan’ property that belongs to marital family.
  2. In poor family dowry from bride’s family will support the groom’s family and groom financially.
  3. Poor girl’s family sees that marriage will protect her future.
  4. Child marriage means more children and more children will earn more and save family from financial problems.
  5. Family do not want to invest on girls education as there is no return from her and rather trained to become a good wife till the age of 13 or 14 and then they are married
  1. Child marriage is seen as custom which has been borrowed from past and people do not want to change it.
  2. Some people believes that if girl is educated she will not perform its traditional duties.
  3. Some societies/castes have social stigma against girl married after puberty.

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