Child Marriage: A Matter of Shame.

Safecity- Elsa D'Silva
Posted May 12, 2017 from India

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 (usuallybelow 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.

Facts and figures about child marriages in India

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

Poverty

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 includingchanging 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 andevaluating programs to determine what works.

Opinions expressed are of the writer. This blog was first published on Safecity.

Arushi Mehta is a blogger at Safecity and 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.

Comments 5

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Sherna Alexander Benjamin
May 12, 2017
May 12, 2017

Dear Safecity,

Child marriage is such an important issue and your work is critical to bring awareness, education to change the social norms around this issue. Continue using your voice. Here in my own country of Trinidad and Tobago many groups including the one to which I belong is fighting to end child marriage.

Continue your work, let your voice be heard and educate others about the dangers of child marriage. 

Safecity- Elsa D'Silva
May 15, 2017
May 15, 2017

Hi Sherna,

Thank you for reading our article. Yes, it is of utmost importance to create awareness about the harms of child marriage. It is great to know you are working against this horrible practice. Thank you for your words of encouragement. Safecity has reached out to Trinidad and Tobago too, to map stories of sexual violence in public spaces with the help of our app. It would be great if you and your fellow people can use it. You can read more about it here.

Regards,

Renita Siqueira

Communications, Safecity

Tamarack Verrall
May 14, 2017
May 14, 2017

Dear Arushi,

This is important information for us all to know. With the background information that Safety is gathering, this practice stays at the forefront of what needs to be done and we can all point to the statistics you have reported. Your closing description of what needs to be done is a powerful guide, reinforcing the need for us all to work unceasingly against the arguments of "tradition" when it is used to end the basic right to freedom for women and girls.

In Sisterhood,

Tam

Safecity- Elsa D'Silva
May 15, 2017
May 15, 2017

Dear Tam,

Thank you for reading our article and your kind words of encouragement. We're glad the information is useful in creating awareness. 

Warm regards,

Renita Siqueira

Communications, Safecity

anikan
May 15, 2017
May 15, 2017

Hi Arushi,

Thank you for highlighting the facts relating to child marriage that happens in India, I've always known about it but having these facts in black & white just made it a lot more real. Hopefully in recent times it will improve and the stats will lower *fingers crossed*.

Warm regards,

Anika