Get Inspired, Be Empowered Forums Child Marriage 140 million girls will become child brides between 2011 and 2020! Reply To: 140 million girls will become child brides between 2011 and 2020!

Mayuravarshini Mohana
Not Helpful

Child marriage is an illegal custom where an individual who has not attained the eligible age for marriage enters into wedlock either through a formal ceremony or an informal union. It is considered to be forcefully done since the individual is a minor under the care of adults.

The minimum legal age for marriage in India is 18 for girls and 21 for boys. However, the Union government is set to increase the eligible age to 21 for girls, the primary purpose of which is to reduce maternal mortality rates and fight malnutrition. It is believed that this move will also increase the chances of women entering the workforce and becoming financially independent. As a corollary, the detrimental effects of child marriage become immediately apparent.

Largely prevalent in South Asia, UNICEF reports that 45% of women aged between 20 and 24 were married before the age of 18. Child marriage is often done out of socio-economic pressures prevalent among the economically weaker sections of the society. Families resort to this practice as a means of alleviating financial strain, but it ultimately only perpetuates their poverty. This owes largely to the fact that children especially girls discontinue their education, the most powerful tool for social progress, soon after their marriage. As a result, child marriage does not allow them to contribute towards economic growth of their country, instead negates governmental efforts taken to eradicate poverty.

Gender inequality is indeed a pivotal element in the occurrence of child marriages. Globally, the incidence of child marriage among boys is only one sixth that among girls. Families consider early marriage of their daughters to be an effective way of ensuring their safety as well as controlling their sexuality. Social belief systems that are highly patriarchal normalise child marriage. It is a widely- held conviction that a girl must be married off soon after her menarche and in some regions it immediately follows Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). In many South Asian cultures, the dowry system is a major factor and has been a catalyst in the drastic increase in child marriages during the recent lockdown.

Child marriage affects children physically, while also placing immense psychological stress on them. Child mothers are most likely to suffer from negative effects on their sexual health as well as develop pregnancy related complications. Their lack of maturity makes them unable to tackle the huge responsibility of child care and family management.

Coid-19 pandemic has posed a major threat of reversing the progress made in tackling child marriages. UNICEF predicts that an additional 10 million girls are likely to become child brides with the economic shock, increase in poverty and the closure of schools being primary causatives. As a result a lot of girls will not return to schools post-pandemic thereby increasing the gender gap in literacy rates.

Child Marriage is a plague upon the society, but it is far from incurable. Legal action in cohesion with social awareness can reap great changes in the society. Adults who contract, solemnise and/or promote child marriages are punished under The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 in India. In addition to legal intervention, many NGOs such as CRY, Saarthi Trust and Girls Not Brides actively fight against eradicating child marriage in India.