Child Marriages : Stigma for a civilized society
Contd from previous issue
They are five times more likely to die during delivery than mothers aged 20-24 years. Risks of health related difficultlies such as low birth weight, pre-mature labor, mal-nutrition, anemia and pre-eclampsia are connected to biological age.
Child marriages contribute to higher total fertility and population growth; as a girl marrying at 13 years will have 26% more children and marrying at 17 years will have 17% more children over her lifetime than if married at 18 years or more. They also endure more violence in the families than other natural married women. Domestic violence along with sexual harassment, acid attacks, and many more inequalities are also found distressing them.
Child marriage is the major factor of out of school and drop out girls. It reduces education prospectus of girls, and conversely better education and employment opportunities for girls may reduce the likelihood of marrying early.
The malady of child marriage is still unabated,even though we see a noticeable empowerment of girls and women over the years. It is unfortunate that despite being fully aware of its ill-effects, child marriages have not been tackled satisfactorily.
A bitter and distasteful medicine is often prescribed to cure a disease. Child marriage is an act of spoiling a child’s life and is equivalent to offence of attempt to end one’s life; thus competing for same provision for punishment. Although, under The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006, there is provision of rigorous imprisonment of 2 years and fine of one lakh rupees for person marrying a child, the guardian and whoever performs child marriage. But it is not a hidden fact that the law has been put under the carpet by the authority.
With the advent of education and vigilance, there is strong demand from women to raise the upper age limit of marriages, which is 18 years for female and 21 years for male. Central as well as State Governments have launched several schemes like Balika Samriddhi Yojana, Mukhyamantri Kanya Utthan Yojana, Mazi Kanya Bhagyashree Yojana etc. for unmarried girls. Interventions to promote education including cash transfers, scholarship, free school uniforms, reductions in school fees, teacher training & life skill curricula are among most likely to reduce child marriages, or at least increase the age of first marriage.
In order to ensure women empowerment, child marriage must be rooted out. In India, the Central Government should take up this issue on priority basis and strictly enact effective law on the pattern of Bihar Government. Globally, a time-bound action plan from National to grass-root level needs to be developed in all the countries with the 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)