Child marriage usually refers to a social phenomena practised in some societies in India , where a young child (usually a girl 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 the marriageable age, when the wedding ceremony is performed. As per law, the marriageable age 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.
Child marriage prevalence is generally defined as the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before age 18. India is estimated to have over 24 million child brides. 40% of the world’s 60 million child marriages take place in India according to the National Family Health Survey. India has the 14th highest rate of child marriage in the world, according to the International Center for Research on Women
Marriage systems and practices vary by region, caste and tribe. Rates of child marriage are higher in the North-West and lower in the South-East of the country. The states with the highest rates of child marriage (50% and above) are Bihar, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. But even in low prevalence states there may be pockets of with high rates of child marriage. According to a recent district-level household and facility survey (DLHS), conducted for the Health Ministry, the worst state for child marriage is Bihar, where nearly 70% of women in their early twenties reported having been married by the age of 18; the best is Himachal Pradesh at 9%.
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 and obstetric fistula
• 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