Saturday, 6 June 2015

Child Marriages in India

Why in news?
Recently, 2011 Census figures for marriages was released, which show a dismal state of affairs on Child Marriages. In addition, every other day, some victimisation/rescue story is published in local and national dailies.

What do the statistics say?
  • Child marriages in Girls:
    • Overall - 1 in 6 marry at <18 years
    • In some backward states - almost 1 in 2 marry 
Source: Indian Express





Why is the picture so dismal?
The reasons include complex interwoven mesh of social practices, religious traditions, economic factors and deep-seated prejudices.

  1. Poverty and/or large family  --> presumed dearth of jobs for women + even if she works, would not earn well + one day has to be part of another family --> so, why invest in her education --> marry her off quickly
  2. Old Traditions / superstition / prescribed by religious scriptures --> taken as an obligatory practice ---> relevance hardly questioned --> used as a way of doing away with responsibility of the child as early as possible
  3. Lack of awareness, sensitisation and education --> mindset difficult to change
  4. Belief --> early marriages ensure better child bearing capacity
  5. Strong belief in caste system + anxiety about future  --> difficult to find a suitable match at a later age --> as soon as a good match is found --> marriage!
  6. Insecurity:
    1. Increasing crime against women --> marriage as a means to provide security + to protect 'honour' of the family
    2. High disaster incidence populations (due to drought, flood, etc.) --> go for early marriages in better off families to ensure security to children against hunger, poverty,etc.
  7. Trafficking --> of children from poorer, highly populated states going on rampantly --> gives a push to early marriages


Why should we be concerned about this issue?

Simply because it affects the girl, our society and world as a whole.
Source: GirlsNotBrides.org


Early marriages have an adverse impact on girls. Let's see how:


Source: GirlsNotBrides.org


Aren't we doing anything about it?

Yes we are. (a lot on papers, atleast!)
  • Intl Conventions: which help in dissuading child marriages
    • Convention on Right of Child - defines a child as <18
    • UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights) - marriage only with free and full consent
    • CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women) - betrothal and marriage - no legal effect - till min age
    • Many treaties etc.
  • Sarda Act - Child Marriage Restraint Act
    • By Britishers - efforts of Harbilas Sarda
    • Repealed - 2006 ---> Child Marriage act
  • Child Marriage Act
    • Non-bailable, congnizable offence
    • up to 2 lakh fine
    • Any person - who promotes such marriage, or fails to prevent  - imprisonment up to 2 years
    • Duties of Child Marriage Prohibition Officer:
      • Counselling of residents of locality
      • Under IPC - below 18 - rape
        • But doesn't cover sexual intercourse in case of child marriage
  • Related Polices or Schemes:
    • National Population Policy 2000
      • Promotes delayed marriage for girls
    • Nat Policy for Empowerment of women 2001
      • Recognises the need of men and women - to suitable address the issues of early marriage and eliminate chold marriage by 2010
    • Nat Youth Policy 2003
      • Sensitise adoloscents wrt correct age of marriage
    • Conditional cash transfer schemes:
      • Cash only if marriage after 18
        • Dhanlakshmi
          • Birth registration, immunisation, school up to 8th ---> Money + insurance cover if unmarried till 18
    • SABLA -  Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls (RGSEAG)
    • IGMSY - Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY)
      • covers girls irrespective of age
    • NEW ONES:
      • Beti Bachao Beti Padhao
        • Sukanya Samriddhi account

What more needs to be done?
  • Should be given right to get their marriage declared void
    • if marriage at <16 - Law Commission's suggestion
  • Registration of marriages should be made compulsory

  • Setting up special police cells
  • Parents, Community elders, religious authorities - convince them
  • Training for vigilance to Child Marriage Prevention Officers
  • Anti-trafficking committees
  • Other solutions:
    • Gender Sensitisation programs 
    • Collaboration with local administration and NGOs
    • Awareness campaigns
    • Better governance and law&order
    • Community participation and dialogue
    • (Many more can be generated)


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