- In the introduction discuss the context of the decision of raising the legal age of marriage for women to 21 years by the government.
- In the body, start by explaining what the socio-economic realities of women in the country are. Discuss what should be the efforts that need to be made first to improve the socio-economic indicators of women in the country.
- Conclude with suitable solutions and suggest what needs to be done.
Child marriage usually refers to a social phenomenon 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.
Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA), 2006 defines a child marriage as one in which the girl is below the age of eighteen years and the boy is below the age of twenty-one years. According to a United Nations report, India has the second highest number of child marriages. The rates of child marriage vary between states and are as high as 69% and 65% in Bihar and Rajasthan.
Child marriage in India:
According to estimates, India contributes 33% of the total number of child brides in the world, with nearly 103 million Indians getting married before they turn 18.
UNICEF estimates that 27% of girls i.e. nearly 1.5 million girls get married before they turn 18. This is better than 47%, a decade ago.
In 2018, a UN Report said that there has been a significant drop in Indian girls being forced into marriage.
Reasons for prevalence of child marriages in India:
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.
Social groups follow traditions from previous eras without questioning contemporary relevance. Early marriage allows parents to waiver ‘responsibility’ of settling their children.
Economically weak and large families encourage the practice as it helps send-off girl children early, while marriage of a boy brings an additional hand to assist in household and economic activities.
Members of communities practicing child marriage tend to have little to no formal education. Belief in religious scriptures and the idea that these contain prescription for early marriage drive families to fulfil this “obligation.”
Early marriage ensures full “utilization” of fertility and childbearing capacity.
Strong caste ties limit the availability of suitable marital partners. As soon as parents identify a match, they make haste in conducting the marriage.
Limited education opportunities, low quality of education, inadequate infrastructure, lack of transport and therefore concerns about girls’ safety while travelling to school significantly contribute to keeping girls out of school and therefore tend to favour child marriage.
Girls are often seen as a liability with limited economic role. Women’s work is confined to the household and is not valued. In addition, there is the problem of dowry. Despite the fact that dowry has been prohibited for five decades (Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961), it is still common for parents of girls in India to give gifts to the groom and /or his family either in cash or kind. The dowry amount increases with the age and the education level of the girl. Hence, the “incentive” of the system of dowry perpetuates child marriage.
The families and girls who might benefit from social protection programmes are not always aware of them and these schemes are often limited to providing cash transfers without the accompanying messages to address the multi-dimensional nature of child marriage.
Measures needed to curb child marriage:
Increase social awareness: Children need to be made aware of their human rights and must be taught to refuse and speak up once such an incident is taking place. The media also needs to adopt a more proactive role in generating awareness towards this heinous ritual.
To transform social norms, programmes must go hand in hand with other interventions to change parents’ attitudes, improve education, incentivise higher level of education, and increase opportunities for girls to learn, work and earn.
The values and norms which support the practice of child marriage need to shift.
Raise awareness about the harmful consequences of child marriage.
A strong legal and policy system can provide an important backdrop for improvements in services, changes in social norms and girls’ empowerment.
Imparting value based education to the students in school stressing the importance of education and the ill effects of early marriage.
Government could rope in achievers like Sakshi Malik, Dipa Karmakar and PV sindhu who have achieved great success in their field and parents and students can seek inspiration from their achievements.
In this competitive world all a child need is education, security and opportunities to showcase his/her talents and not marriage which breaks their wings. Let’s give them a safe world to live where they can run behind their dreams and build a healthier and equal future.