Arushi Mehta is a student of B.Sc Life Science. Apart from biology she has a strong inclination towards writing. She write fictions, poems and much more. She wants her voice to be heard and writing provides her that platform. She writes about inhuman acts as well and she scrutinizes the internet and newspapers to make her articles strong and justifiable.
Child Marriage: A Matter of Shame.
God has made each phase of life for a specific reason. If we try to disturb this balance or skip one phase and go to another, it can have a drastic effect on one’s life. Childhood and adolescence are phases to enjoy, to play, to be free and have fun. Sometimes this cycle is disturbed and child is forced to marry and live a life that is beyond their years.
Child marriage usually refers to a social phenomena practised in some societies in India , where a young girl (usually below the age of fifteen) is married to an adult man. A second form of practice of child marriage is that in which the parents of the two children (the girl and boy) arrange a future marriage. In this practice, the individuals (the boy and girl) do not meet one another until they reach marriageable age, when the wedding ceremony is performed. In India the legal age for marriage is 21 for males and 18 for females.
Gender inequality, social norms, perceived low status of girls, poverty, lack of education, safety concerns about girl children and control over sexuality are considered to be reasons for prevalence of child marriages. Girl children in rural areas are more affected than their urban counterparts.
However, if any partner(s) engages in marriage at a younger age, (s)he can ask for the marriage to be declared void / annulled.
The latest Census report on the decadal headcount in 2011 reveals that child marriage is rampant, with almost one in every three married woman having been wed while she was still under the age of 18 years.
What is worse is a whopping 78.5 lakh girls (2.3% of all women or girls who were ever married or were married in 2011) were married while they were not yet 10 years of age. The Census data also show that 91% of all married women were married by the age of 25 years.
The legal age for marriage is 18 for women and 21 for men. But an alarming 30.2% of all married women, or 10.3 crore girls, were married before they had turned 18, as per Census 2011 data. As per Census 2001 data, 43.5% of all married women had been married while they were under the age of 18 years. In a silver lining of sorts, however, the trend seems to be on the decline.
Effects of child marriage
- Girls who get married at an early age are often more susceptible to the health risks associated with early sexual initiation and childbearing, including HIV.
- Young girls who lack status, power and maturity are often subjected to domestic violence, sexual abuse and social isolation.
- Early marriage almost always deprives girls of their education or meaningful work, which contributes to persistent poverty.
- Child Marriage perpetuates an unrelenting cycle of gender inequality, sickness and poverty
- Getting the girls married at an early age when they are not physically mature, leads to highest rates of maternal and child mortality
Reasons for early / child marriages
- Low level of education of girls
- Lower status given to the girls and considering them as financial burden
- Social customs and traditions.
How to end child marriage?
Girls who get married as children (younger than 18 years of age) are often more susceptible to the health risks associated with early sexual initiation and childbearing, including HIV and obstetric fistula. Lacking status and power, these girls are often subjected to domestic violence, sexual abuse and social isolation. And early marriage almost always deprives girls of their education or meaningful work, which contributes to persistent poverty.
This outlines what can and should be done to end child marriage including:
- changing harmful cultural norms
- supporting community programs
- maximizing foreign assistance
- increasing girls’ access to education,
- providing young women with economic opportunities
- addressing the unique needs of child brides
- evaluating programs to determine what works
Opinions expressed are of the writer.