India’s struggle with child marriage continuous from pre- independence times. Despite making laudable progress in the fields of education, Science and technology, legislative provision, public awareness etc. issue of child marriage yet remains to walk a long mile before getting eradicated. poverty, gender inequality, domestic violence, crime, exploitation, increase in population etc. are the devastating consequences of child marriage. It is unfortunate that during pandemic, child marriage registered an increase, which needs to be tackled at society level, national level and global level.
Causes and Consequences
As per UNICEF India is the home to the largest number of child brides in the world, with at least 1.5 million girls under 18 getting married each year.
Poverty and illiteracy – Considered main culprit behind the propagation of child marriage. The socio-economic position pushes numerous adolescents in the clasp of under age marriage. In the name of security mostly girl children are married off thus depriving them of the opportunities like Right to Education and chances of personal growth.
Societal outlook – Responsible for dragging the immature girls into the responsibilities of married life. As there are beliefs that girls are only supposed to take up the role of wifes and their children(prefer male child) which would mean increasing helping hands to run the house. Hence giving education to girl children is often considered a wasteful investment in the lower strata of the society.
Lukewarm responses from government institutions – Education for all upto the age of 14 years is a remarkable initiative, but without ensuring suitable provision like hygienic toilets within the premises of school, accessibility of sanitary napkin, water supply, meal provision etc, such initiative can never be implemented in letter and spirit. Actually these are some reasons due to which adolescent girls voluntarily choose to drop out and get married to lessen family burden.
Lack of Sex Education – Many families still are of the belief that an unmarried adolescent girl stepping out of house could bring to shame to their honour. Also adolescents without any awareness and up in troubles like teen pregnancy. Thus sex education not only to children but also to their guardian will play a crucial role in breaking a taboo and making a society a safer place.
In free India, it was in 1978 when child marriage restraints(Amendment) act was enforced to raise the age of marriage for girls from 15-18 years and Boys from 18-21.
UNICEF is helping India to prevent child marriages. It has reached 33 million parents and community members to create awareness.
Prohibition of Child marriage act 2006 has been put in place to tackle the problem. State governments are asked to provide conditional cash transfer to curb the practice of child marriage.
India is a party to U.N convention on the elimination of all forms of discriminations against women, and banning of child marriage will be a strong step forwards it.
24th January is celebrated as the “National Girl Child Day” to promote sensitization and awareness of the girl child.
The SABLA scheme launched in 2010 is working towards empowering adolescent girls by improving their nutritional and health condition. Conclusion
The issue of child marriage is embedded in multi dimensional social, economic, cultural and community related aspects. It is widely acknowledged that child marriage denies a child the basic rights to good health, nutrition and education. yet the interplay between socio-cultural factors and poverty and inequality, makes it challenging to get rid off such a serious issue. In addition to the empowerment measures, community engagement along with cultural awareness, will pave the way towards delaying the child marriage, It will further help each child exercise their basic human rights.