From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : NA
Mains level : Child marriage, Reasons, Challenges and solutions
- When the Assam government launched a massive crackdown on child marriage, social activists pointed out that the root of the problem, i.e., limited access to education among women, is not being sufficiently addressed. National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data show that higher education levels could play a greater role than wealth in delaying a woman’s marriage. The data also reflect wide variations between the marital age of rural and urban women, and Dalit and upper-caste women.
Does education or wealth play a greater role in determining when a woman gets married?
- Education is significant: Education has a longer history of being significant in delaying a woman’s marriage.
- For instance: Depending on National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data, education has had a steady influence, while poverty has had an increasing influence over time.
- Poverty: Poverty is the greatest determinant of early marriage as the poor do not want to wait due to the increasing demand for dowry. Wealthier people are no longer marrying their daughters early.
What role does marriage play in India?
Marriage plays a significant role in India as it serves multiple purposes.
- Most significant institution: It is considered the most significant institution for daughters as it fulfills the family’s responsibility towards them. For sons, the responsibility is to settle them in a job, which will hopefully lead to marriage.
- Social identity: Marriage is crucial for social identity, and a woman who remains single is an anomaly because almost everyone gets married.
- Sexual respectability: marriage is essential for sexual respectability as those who wish to have social respect have sexual relationships within marriage.
- Legitimate children: Marriage provides the option to have children, and having a child without a husband is completely unacceptable in the Indian context.
What advantages that families see in getting women married earlier instead of educating them further?
- Dowry: This dowry can be a significant financial burden for families, and getting their daughters married early may be seen as a way to reduce this expense. The more educated a girl, the more the boy has to be educated too and the higher the dowry.
- Transfer of responsibility: Families feel there is the responsibility of protecting her sexually before marriage. And that responsibility gets transferred to the boy’s family. After marriage, the girl goes to live with her husband’s family, so why spend on her education?
- Maintenance of caste and community lines: In some cultures, marrying within one’s own caste and community is essential to maintain social status and cultural traditions. Early marriage may be seen as a way to ensure that women are married within their caste and community and preserve cultural practices.
Women are increasingly getting access to education. Does this result in more empowerment?
- Advantages of Women’s Access to Education:
- Education provides women with knowledge and skills that lead to greater empowerment and the ability to make informed decisions about their lives.
- Educated women are more likely to participate in the workforce, earn higher wages, and have better health outcomes.
- Access to education can challenge traditional gender norms and stereotypes, creating new opportunities for women and girls.
- Education can increase women’s bargaining power within their families and communities, allowing them to negotiate for better living conditions, higher earnings, and greater autonomy.
- Challenges in Women’s Employment
- The female labor force participation rate is low at 25%, and job losses have been especially harmful to women.
- Despite increased access to education, there is a high proportion of educated but unemployed women.
- Women who enter the corporate sector often face hostility or are unable to balance domestic expectations with work demands.
- The conjugal contract between men and women remains largely unchanged, with women assuming the majority of domestic burdens and men often having power over family decisions.
- Impact of Age of Marriage
- Increasing the age of marriage may not automatically lead to greater empowerment, autonomy, or freedom for women.
- While delaying marriage may provide women with more opportunities to pursue education and careers, there is still a significant gender gap in employment and earnings.
- Low and declining employment rates may also result in a greater burden on marriage as a means of economic security.
Why women in SC/ST/OBC communities get married at younger age than even those in rural India?
- Socio-economic factors: Women in SC/ST/OBC communities tend to get married at younger ages than even those in rural areas due to a combination of social and economic factors.
- Sense of social disadvantage: Families who belong to these groups experience a sense of social disadvantage in the marriage market, but they are also often poor, with lower wealth quintiles being disproportionately populated by SC, ST, and OBCs.
- Caste and poverty: There is a fair deal of correlation between caste and poverty in these communities, with many lacking decent work and being vulnerable to violence from those higher in the hierarchy.
- Vulnerability: Girls from these communities are even more vulnerable to such issues, with Dalit girls being particularly susceptible to sexual predators as young upper-caste men feel that they have a right of access.
- Marriage as protection: Marriage can be seen as a form of protection for girls from these communities, but the issue of early marriage is complex and influenced by a range of factors.
- The issue of child marriage in India is complex and deeply rooted in societal norms, poverty, and caste systems. Despite the progress in education and women’s empowerment, there are still challenges. The issue of child marriage requires a comprehensive approach that addresses the underlying societal and economic factors that perpetuate the practice.
Q. Discuss the role of education and wealth in determining the age at which women get married in India.
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