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Child Marriages: A curse for humanity

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By: Er. Prabhat Kishore

In most of the countries, marriage before 18 years is strictly prohibited as it violates the natural rights of the children. It is a malpractice, as it denies the children from attaining health, education and other opportunities exploring a dire consequence in their life. It exposes girls to violence throughout their lives and trap them in a cycle of poverty. Child marriages are actually a global problem that cuts across countries, culture & civilization, religions and ethnicities.

The causes of child marriages are manifold. A sense of insecurity, rise in poverty, growing food insecurity, traditional and religious practices, increase in joblessness are some well-known reasons for recent surge in child marriages.

Although the practice of child marriage affects both boys and girls, statistics reveals that in majority cases usually girls are forced into child marriage than boys. Some parents think that girls’ education is wastage while boys’ education is an investment and such thinking accelerates discriminatory attitudes causing negative impacts on the lives of girls.

Conservative outlook of the rural people and religious mystification usually contribute to worsening the situation. Misconception still prevails in the age of present digitalization as many living in rural areas think that if their daughter gets older, it will be difficult to marry them. Still it is found that many parents are found to look for the younger brides for their sons.For some poor families, marring off a young daughter means one less burden. Some religious sects encourage girls as young as 10 years to marry much older men for spiritual guidance, while some families , to avoid shame, force girls to marry their boy-friends.

Child marriages directly hinders the achievement of at least six of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), 2030. Target 5.3 of the SDG aims  to end child marriage by 2030.More than 650 million women and above 150 million men in the world have already suffered the consequences of child marriage.

Un  icef report reveals that total marriages in childhood is nearly 12 million a year and there has been decrease of 25 million of child marriages in last decade. Obviously, globally the rate of child marriages is slowly declining, but its progress is not happening fast enough. If current trend on child marriages continue, 150 million more girls will be married in childhood by 2030 with devasting consequences for the whole world.

In India, there are 223 million brides, who have been married in childhood i.e. before attaining 18 years. In other words, approximately one in every four young women were married or in a union before their 18th birthday.

Child marriage explores a serious threat making girls more vulnerable. The girls married off at pre-matured age are five times more likely to die during delivery than mothers aged 20-24 years. Most of the girls married at early stage have to face many health related difficulties such as mal-nutrition and anemia before and after their motherhood. They endure more violence in the families than other natural married women. Domestic violence along with sexual harassment, acid attacks, and many more inequalities is also found distressing them.

India has achieved a tremendous success in women empowerment in last few decades. Girls are no more confined within the four walls of the house, rather they are becoming engineers, doctors, judges, police officers, pilots, journalist etc. and there is hardly any profession they are not found in these days competing with men and proving their worth. They have established the individual identity and achieved the right to speak on family and social matters.

The malady of child marriage is still unabated; despite we see a noticeable empowerment of girls and women over the years. It is unfortunate that despite girls’ empowerment, child marriages has not been tackled satisfactorily.

Under Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006, the marriageable age for a female is 18 years and for a male 21 years. There is strong demand from women to raise the upper age  limit of marriages. Central as well as State Governments have launched several schemes like Balika Samriddhi Yojana, Mukhyamantri KanyaUtthanYojana, Mazi Kanya BhagyashreeYojana etc. for unmarried girls, which will be instrumental in removing this stigma from society.

In order to ensure women empowerment, child marriage must be eliminated. The central government should take up this issue on priority basis and enact effective law on the pattern of Bihar Government. A time-bound action plan at national level needs to be developed in all the countries with co-operation of civil society, UN agencies and girls themselves to achieve the SDG goals for nullifying this evil forever.

(The author is a technocrat & academician. He holds Master in Engineering from M.N. Regional Engineering College, Allahabad/Prayagraj)

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