Child Marriage in India

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What’s in Today’s Article?

  • Why in the News?
  • Child Marriages in India
  • Global Scenario
  • Impact of Child Marriage
  • Legal Intervention in India
  • Why Minimum Age of Marriage for Females should be Increased?
  • Schemes/ Policies for Preventing Girl Child Marriage
  • News Summary

Why in the News?

  • One in five girls and one in six boys are still getting married below the legal age of marriage in India.
  • This has been highlighted by a new study published in the Lancet Global Health on December 15th, 2023.

Child Marriages in India

  • In India, child marriage reduced from 47.4% in 2005-06 to 26.8% in 2015-16.
  • In the last five years, it declined by 3.5% points to reach 23.3% in 2020-21, according to the latest National Family Health Survey-5 data.
  • There is a growing trend for decline in the overall prevalence of child marriage, but 23.3% is still a disturbingly high percentage in a country with a population of 141.2 crore.
  • Eight States have a higher prevalence of child marriage than the national average:
    • West Bengal, Bihar and Tripura top the list with more than 40% of women aged 20-24 years married below 18, according to NFHS data.
  • Some States have shown a reduction in child marriages, like Madhya Pradesh (23.1% in 2020-21 from 32.4% in 2015-16), Rajasthan (25.4% from 35.4%) and Haryana.

Global Scenario

  • According to data from UNICEF, the total number of girls married in childhood stands at 12 million per year.
  • The 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals aim to eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilations, under goal 5.
  • While it is encouraging that in the past decade great progress has been made in South Asia, where a girl’s risk of marrying before she is 18 has dropped by more than a third, from nearly 50% to below 30%, it is not enough, and progress has been uneven.

Impact of Child Marriage

  • While child marriage is considered a human rights violation and a recognised form of sexual and gender-based violence, the adverse impact of child marriage is manifested across maternal and child health.
  • Recently, 10 infants died at Murshidabad Medical College and Hospital in a span of 24 hours.
    • The hospital authorities said the majority of the children were born with extremely low birth weight.
  • Murshidabad, one of the economically poorer districts of the State, has one of the highest numbers of child marriages in West Bengal.
  • The NFHS - 5 points out that 55.4% of women aged 20-24 years are married before the age of 18 years in the district.
  • The district saw a rise from NFHS-4 numbers, which stood at 53.5 %.

Legal Intervention in India

  • There are several laws including the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, which aim at protecting children from violation of human and other rights.
  • The Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021 seeks to increase the marriage age of women from existing 18 years to 21 years.

Why Minimum Age of Marriage for Females should be Increased?

  • Lack of access to education and employment:
    • Women face inequalities when it comes to access to education and employment as a consequence of their early marriages.
    • It is often the case that women are denied access to education and an economic means of livelihood after entering into the institution of marriage at an early age.
    • Increasing the minimum age for marriage will lead to more women pursuing higher education and opt for employment.
  • Impact of early marriage on health of women and children:
    • An early age of marriage and consequent early pregnancies have a substantial impact on the nutritional levels of mothers and their children, along with their overall health and mental wellbeing.
    • Underage mothers are at a higher risk of reproductive health challenges, malnutrition, postpartum haemorrhage, and a susceptibility to sexually transmitted diseases.

Schemes/ Policies for Preventing Girl Child Marriage

  • Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana (SSY):
    • Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana (SSY), was launched in 2015, in order to promote the welfare of girl child.
    • It encourages parents to invest and build funds for the future studies and marriage expenses of the girl's children.
  • Balika Samriddhi Yojana:
    • Balika Samriddhi Yojana is another central government scheme to support girls in financially vulnerable sections of society.
    • This scheme ensures the enrolment and retention of girl child in primary and secondary schools.
    • It aims at the prosperity of a girl's child and provides them with a better quality education.
  • Beti Bachao Beti Padhao:
    • Among all the other girl's child welfare schemes, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao is the most popular.
    • This scheme celebrates girl children, literally translating to Save the Girl Child, Educate the Girl child. It believes in women empowerment and creating an inclusive ecosystem for the same.
    • This scheme is to promote girl children’s safety before and after they are born.

News Summary

  • One in five girls and one in six boys are still getting married below the legal age of marriage in India, as per a new study published in the Lancet Global Health.
    • The researchers used data from five National Family Health Surveys from 1993, 1999, 2006, 2016,and 2021 to compile the study.

Key highlights of the report

  • There remains an urgent need for strengthened national and state-level policy to eliminate child marriage by 2030, say the researchers.
  • Researchers have noted that substantial variation exists in the prevalence of girl and boy child marriages across the states and Union Territories during the study period.
  • All states, except Manipur, experienced a decline in the prevalence of girl child marriage between 1993 and 2021.
  • According to researchers in 2021, the headcount of child marriage in girls was 13,464,450 and 14,54,894 in boys.
  • Four states – Bihar (16·7%), West Bengal (15·2%), Uttar Pradesh (12·5%), and Maharashtra (8·2%) – accounted for more than half of the total burden of child marriages in girls.
    • For boys, Gujarat (29%), Bihar (16·5%), West Bengal (12.9%), and Uttar Pradesh (8.2%) accounted for more than 60 per cent of the burden.
  • Jharkhand had the largest percentage increase in headcount (53.1%) between 1993 and 2021.
  • Most states and Union Territories saw a decrease in headcount of child marriage in girls between 1993 and 2021.
  • Uttar Pradesh had the most substantial absolute decrease, which accounted for an estimated one-third of the all-India decrease in headcount of child marriage in girls observed between 1993 and 2021.
  • West Bengal saw the largest absolute increase with over 500000 more girls married as children.

Q1) What are Vishakha Guidelines?

The Vishaka Guidelines were established by the Supreme Court to establish rules for preventing sexual harassment at work. These rules highlighted the requirement that businesses need to set up systems to stop sexual harassment, such as forming a complaint committee and running awareness campaigns.

Q2) What is the Nirbhaya Fund?

The Government of India established the Nirbhaya Fund in response to the Nirbhaya Case in 2013. It is aimed specifically at projects for improving women's safety and security and is managed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD).

Source: Child Marriage in India | Indian Express