Child marriage is still widespread in India, which is home to a third of the world’s child brides. About half of Indian women were married before they turned 18. Child marriage is a violation of child rights, and has a negative impact on physical growth, health, mental and emotional development, and education opportunities. Girls from poorer families, scheduled castes and tribes, and with lower education levels are more likely to marry at a younger age.
Globally more than one third of the women between the ages 20-24 are married before they reached the age of 18. Approximately 14 million adolescent girls, between the ages 15-19, give birth each year. The custom of child marriage is widespread in parts of Africa, Asia, Oceania and South America. There are many instances where only one marriage-partner is a child, usually the female, because of the importance that is placed upon her virginity, the perceived inability for her to work for money and since woman’s reproductive life is considered to be shorter than that of man’s. However with an increase in the advocacy of human rights, whether as women’s rights or as a child’s rights, the tradition of child marriage has decreased in many areas.
Child marriage is deep rooted in the matrix of culture, socioeconomic and religion. It is interdependent and entwined that result in the imprisonment of children in marriages. It was revealed that girls married under 18 years faced an elevated risk of complications in pregnancy and childbirth and contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV and experience social and educational disadvantages.Despite legislation forbidding child marriage in India (Child Marriage Restraint Act-1929) and the much more progressive Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (2006) and many initiatives to prevent child marriage, marrying children off at a very tender age continues to be accepted by large sections of our society. Therefore it is needless to say that an integrated approach needs to be adopted to curtail the problem of child marriage and raise the status of girls. Initiatives such as ‘Apni Beti Apna Dhan’ encourage families to delay marriages by providing incentives.