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Child marriage no more common


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Always showing India as backward, slow in catching up with world is the trend with most of the international organizations. Their studies, researches are oriented towards issue which is yet to be improved. At the same time there is no dearth of publications and TV channels to air them enjoy showing the country and its people in bad light.

The latest report by international medical journal The Lancet has carried says child marriage is still com

on in India, with ‘most Indian adolescents’ get married before the age of 18. It makes filled with half truths and convenient generalizations.

The report, prepared by a Lancet “commission” made up of 30 experts from 14 countries, and released on May 11 says that child marriage in India is declining “very slowly”. As per the report, 47 per cent of women are married before 18 years. The highest prevalence is in five states: Madhya Pradesh (73 per cent), Andhra Pradesh (71 per cent), Rajasthan (68 per cent), Bihar (67 per cent), and Uttar Pradesh (64 per cent).

The urban–rural differential is substantial, with the rate of rural girls marrying at ages younger than 18 years being nearly twice the rate of urban girls. The report adds that girls who marry before 18 years, report physical violence twice as often and sexual violence three times as often as those marrying later.

But ground realities at India are different. There h

has been a dramatic decline in child marriage in country. This is across various religious communities and even among less educated sections, Census 2011 data released on May 27 revealed these facts. The share of girls getting married before reaching the legal marriage age of 18 years fell steeply from 44 percent in 2001 to 30 percent in 2011, a proportion no doubt unreasonable. But definitely it does not mean ‘most Indian adolescents getting married before the age of 18.’ As Lancet puts in its report. Data from Census 2011 also reaffirmed that the more educated the girl, the later she gets married. Thus, among illiterate girls, 38% were married off before 18 years age but among graduates or above just 5% got married below the legal age.

Hindus and Muslims have almost the same proportion of below-legal age marriages of girls at about 31%, down from 43-45 percent a decade ago. Sikhs and Christians have the lowest share of underage girls getting married at 11-12 percent, with the Jain community only slightly more at 16 percent. While Buddhists continue to be more in line with Hindus and Muslims with 28 percent underage girls getting married, among communities of other religious persuasions ¬ including Parsis and all ancient tribal faiths ¬ the proportion is about 24 percent, down from percent. But another surprising fact emerges. There is a sharp decline in the share of girls getting married before 18 years even among illiterate or below-secondary level educated brides. Among illiterates, in 2001, a whopping 51 percent of married women had tied the knot before reaching 18 years of age.

This share has plunged to 38 percent in 2011. Still high but considerably lower than a decade ago. Similarly, among girls who could study till middle school but dropped out before class 10, the share of those getting married before 18 years fell from 34 percent to 25 percent Child marriage was outlawed in 1929, under Indian law.

However, in th


e British colonial times, the legal minimum age of marriage was set at 15 for girls and 18 for boys. Under protests from Muslim organizations in the undivided British India, a personal law Shariat Act was passed in 1937 that allowed child marriages with consent from girl’s guardian. After independence and adoption of Indian constitution in 1950, the child marriage act has undergone several revisions. The minimum legal age for marriage, since 1978, has been 18 for women and 21 for men. The child marriage prevention laws have been challenged in Indian courts, with some Muslim Indian organizations seeking no minimum age and that the age matter is left to their personal law.

Marriages below legal age estimates vary widely between sources as to the extent and scale of child marriages. The International Center for Research on Women-UNICEF publications have estimated India’s below the legal age marriage rate to be 47 percent from small sample surveys of 1998, while the United Nations reports it to be 30 percent in 2005.

The Census of India has counted and reported married women by age, with proportion of females in below the legal age marriage falling in each 10 year census period since 1981. In its 2001 census report, India stated zero married girls below age 10, 1.4 million married girls out of 59.2 million girls aged 10–14, and 11.3 million married girls out of 46.3 million girls aged 15–19. Since 2001, child marriage rates in our country have fallen another 46 percent, reaching an overall nationwide average 7 percent child marriage rates by 2009.

This latest round of Census data yet again shows that in all important matters of marriage, children and such, there are similar trends across religious communities. As other data has shown, declining fertility rates, increasing age of marriage, gaps and order of children etc are following similar trends. All this is experts feel probably a result of the culturally intertwined lives of all peoples across faiths.

This has become possible because many indicatives from central and state governments. Several states in the country have introduced incentives to delay marriages. For example, the state of Haryana introduced the so-called Apni Beti, Apna Dhan program in 1994, which translates to “My daughter, my wealth”. It is a conditional cash transfer program dedicated to delaying young marriages by providing a government paid bond in her name, payable to her parents, in the amount of Rs.25000, after her 18th birthday if she is not married.


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