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Child Marriage

  • IASbaba
  • October 19, 2022
  • 0
Governance
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In News: Launching a nationwide campaign against child marriage from Rajasthan, Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi has appealed to the nation to initiate collective action against child marriage to end the social evil.

Context:

  • The Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF) will spearhead the campaign.
  • As part of the campaign, 70,000 women and girls led people in lighting lamps, torchlight processions in around 10,000 villages (6,015 villages by KSCF and rest by government and other agencies) from over 500 districts in 26 states.
  • The campaign was launched with another Nobel Peace Laureate, Leymah Gbowee.
  • The ‘Child Marriage Free India’ campaign has three major objectives — to ensure the strict implementation of law; to enhance participation of children and women and ensure their empowerment through giving them free education till the age of 18; and to provide safety to children against sexual exploitation.
  • Government agencies, including Railway Protection Force, Women and Child Development Department of 14 states, state child protection authorities, state legal services authorities, Anganwadis and district administration of several state governments joined the campaign.

Child marriage in India:

                     

  • Child marriage usually refers to a social phenomenon where a young child (usually a girl below the age of fifteen) is married to an adult man.
  • The second form of practice of child marriage is that in which the parents of the two children (the girl and boy) arrange a future marriage.
  • In this practice, the individuals (the boy and girl) do not meet one another until they reach the marriageable age, when the wedding ceremony is performed.
  • Child marriage prevalence is generally defined as the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before age 18.
  • As per law, the marriageable age is 21 for males and 18 for females.
  • Girl children in rural areas are more affected than their urban counterparts.
  • India is estimated to have over 24 million child brides; 40% of the world’s 60 million child marriages take place in India according to the National Family Health Survey.
  • India has the 14th highest rate of child marriage in the world, according to the International Center for Research on Women.
  • Marriage systems and practices vary by region, caste and tribe.
  • Rates of child marriage are higher in the North-West and lower in the South-East of the country.
  • The states with the highest rates of child marriage (50% and above) are Bihar, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
  • Rajasthan had emerged as the State with the highest incidence of child marriage both among boys, which was 8.6%, and girls, which was 8.3%, in the 2011 Census.
  • According to the National Family Health Survey-4 data collected in 2015-16, 16.2% of the girls aged 15 to 19 years were married before the age of 18 in Rajasthan, with variations across districts.
  • In Bihar, nearly 70% of women in their early twenties reported having been married by the age of 18.
  • According to DLHS data, around 48% of married women in the 20-24 year age group got married before 18 in rural areas, compared with 29% in urban areas.
  • Over the past fifteen years, child marriage has declined by just 11 percent – less than one percent per year.

Causes of child marriage:

  • Gender inequality such as declining sex-ratio, sex-selective abortions
  • Economic considerations such as leeway to large dowry
  • Social norms
  • Perceived low status of girls
  • Poverty
  • Lack of education
  • Safety concerns about girl children
  • Control over sexuality and chastity of a young bride
  • Honour killings

Challenges:

  • Child marriage is a violation of human rights and dignity.
  • It negatively influences children’s rights to education, health and protection. These consequences impact not just the girl directly, but also her family and community.
  • This social evil propels an unending list of crimes against children, especially against our daughters. A child bride is more likely to experience domestic violence and become infected with HIV/AIDS.
  • Child marriage negatively affects the Indian economy and can lead to an intergenerational cycle of poverty. Girls and boys married as children more likely lack the skills, knowledge and job prospects needed to lift their families out of poverty and contribute to their country’s social and economic growth.
  • Lack of feminist lawmaking and policy-making, and two, the lack of implementation of extant legal provisions and policies.
  • Rural poverty implies lack of economic benefits emanating from educating their girls since they will leave their house after marriage.
  • Low levels of literacy implies people do not indulge in family planning for there is a notion that more children are more hands to work.
  • Cultural practices perceive unmarried women as liabilities for family integrity and honour.

Legislative Framework:

  • The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 or Sarda Act fixed the age of marriage for girls at 14 years and boys at 18 years.
  • Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (1994) to prohibit prenatal diagnostic techniques for determination of the sex of the foetus leading to female feticide.
  • The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006
  • Legal age for marriage in India is eighteen for girls and twenty-one for boy
  • Full-time “Child Marriage Prohibition Officers” are appointed in every state and are supposed to police instances of child marriage.
  • These officers are vested with the authority to prevent child marriages, make documented reports of violations, charge offenders that can also include the child’s parents and even remove children from dangerous and potentially dangerous situations.
  • The option of the child that has been married off – allowing her to declare her marriage void at any time up to two years after reaching adulthood.
  • The only exception where a child marriage can be declared as void even before the child reaches the age of 18, is when the child has been abducted, kidnapped, trafficked or been compelled to marry under force, deceit, coercion or misrepresentation.
  • The legislation also penalizes the arrangement, performance or participation in child marriages.
  • Child marriage is punishable by imprisonment of up to two years, or may be charged with a fine of up to one lakh rupees, or both.
  • By Section 10, these penalties are extended to anyone who performs, conducts, directs or abets a child marriage unless he can prove that he had reason to believe that the marriage was no child marriage.
  • If the child herself contracts for a child marriage, under Section 11, any parent or guardian who actively supports the marriage or negligently fails to prevent it is punishable by way of imprisonment and or a fine.

Measures:

  • In 2009, the MWCD introduces a pilot scheme called Dhanalakshmi, as a conditional cash transfer scheme providing cash to the family of the girl child.
  • Beti Bachao Beti Padhao aims to curb sex-selective abortion or female foeticide.
  • As per a UNICEF report, two of every three child marriages would be stopped in the world only if all girls could complete secondary school.
  • Better quality of education and higher literacy rates among women is directly linked to lower cases of child marriage, as per the non-profit Child Rights and You (CRY) showed.
  • National Population Policy 200043 and the National Youth Policy 2003,44 there were strategies to address the vulnerability of girls in the context of child marriages.
  • The provision of non-formal education and vocational training, development of livelihood skills and education and awareness of sexual and reproductive health issues.

Way forward

  • At the global level, child marriage is included in Goal 5 “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”.
  • The Ministry of Women and Child Development supports a child help line service (Toll free number 1098) to reach out to children in distress.

Source: Indian Express

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