Marriage is regarded as a holy institution wherein two mature individuals come into wedlock for a harmonious and fulfilled life. But, early age marriage or child marriage is an ugly reality in India that mars this harmony. Young girls are considered as a burden in poor, rural households in rural India to  be disposed off by marrying early .

Child Marriages  Figures in India:-

As per Unicef reports, one  in three child brides is an Indian, of the country’s 223 million child brides ,around 103 million were married before the age of 15.Further,various Indian states differ in number when it comes to this evil. Like ,Uttar Pradesh recorded the maximum number of this population : 36 million followed by Bihar and West Bengal.The lowest number was recorded in Jammu and Kashmir.

The  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 child marriage rate to be 47% from a sample surveys of 1998, while the UN reports it to be 30% in 2005.  In its 2001 census report, India stated zero married girls below the age of 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. This percentage is around three times higher in rural India as compared to its urban counterpart as per a report in 2009.  

Child marriage represents a grave violence against children,especially girls since they are at the receiving end of this problem.As  per UNICEF reports,only one in five young boys is married early as compared to girls where this number is 3-4. However,it  deprives them of their rights to health, education, and a livelihood. Because child marriage should be recognized as a social and medical emergency,we need to peek into major social determinants that augment this trend in rural India.

Reasons for child marriage:-

Patriarchy:- India has a predominantly patriarchal mindset.This is quite manifested in rural India.As male head of the family decides the fate of girl child in the family.She is seen as subservient to the male child and therefore a burden to be disposed off soon.

Sexual violence:- Age old violent attitude of society towards woman force rural parents to skip to child marriage as a means to gain safety for them. A girl is a symbol of her family’s honour so her virginity needs to be protected at all costs.This results in parents marrying their daughters as soon as they reach puberty or sometimes even before that.

Poverty:- It is a major factor which leads to propagation of this evil.Rural households have limited sources of income with many mouths to feed. So ,especially girls are seen as an unwanted and unnecessary  member in family . 

Lack of awareness and adequate educational facilities:-Illiteracy follows from generation to generation in majority of rural families.Women are not aware of their rights and thus succumb easily to societal pressures.Educating a girl child is the last thing in the minds of parents . 

Child marriage is used as a strategy to preserve patrirachal  customs and  orthodox traditions . As a number of studies in India have shown, these societal threats coerce adolescents to conform to norms. Consequently, the control of the patriarchy, endorsed by community support, is perpetuated from one generation to the next.

These social, cultural, and patriarchal mindsets and gender norms discourage girls aged 10-12 years (or more) from going to school.Poverty is key factor that adds to this chain of woes and misery.

Health Risks involved in child marriages:-

Early marriages cause disastrous health issue in young adolescents ,in many cases leading to severe reproductive problems,sexually transmitted diseases,malnutrition,anaemia,complicated pregnancies to name just a few.Minor girls becoming mothers are at the biggest risk towards death .The infants ,too ,face serious health issues and many a times fail to survive.Infact,stillbirths,miscarriages or abortions are quite high in the case of young mothers.

Infants born to mothers under the age of 18 are 60% more likely to die in their first year than to mothers over the age of 19. If the children survive, they are more likely to suffer from low birth weight, malnutrition issues and other physical and mental growth related problems. 

Another serious health issue pertaining to this evil is the sexual and domestic abuse faced by young brides.A study conducted by International centre for research on women stated that girls below aged 18 were more likely to be slapped,threatened or face sexual abuse by their partners.

Preventive measures:-

However ,situation is slowly trying to improve with government ,NGO’s ,other non profit institutions working hard to implement preventive measures to root out this disease from our society.As per UNICEF report,India has managed to achieve an annual reduction rate of 5.5% in curbing child marriages.  Some of the well-known strategies to prevent child marriage include (1) empowering girls with information, skills, and support; (2) educating and mobilizing parents and community members to restrict harmful gender and social norms; (3) enhancing the accessibility and quality of formal schooling; (4) providing economic support and incentives for girls; and (5) fostering an enabling legal and policy framework.


The Indian Government is concerned about the prevalence of Child Marriages in the country and has put in place necessary legislation viz. Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) 2006 to tackle the problem. The States/UTs from time to time are being regularly pursued for effective implementation of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. Advertisements in the press and electronic media educating people about the issue of Child Marriage etc are also being taken up. Platforms such as the International Womens Day and the National Girl Child Day are used to create awareness on issues related to women and to bring to the centre stage issues such as child marriage. Through the Sabla programme of this Ministry, adolescent girls in the age group of 11 to 18 years are imparted training with regard to legal rights of women which also helps in increasing awareness among people.Further,the honourable  Supreme Court of India in the case of Independent Thought v. Union of India in October, 2017 has  declared that sexual intercourse with all wives below 18 years of age shall be considered as rape; another new and progressive legislation Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 disallows any such sexual relationships and puts such crimes with marriages as an aggravated offense.

Apni Beti, Apna Dhan (ABAD), which translates to "My daughter, My wealth," is one of India's first conditional cash transfer  programmes dedicated to delaying young marriages across the nation. Its a government initiative to motivate parents to treat their daughters with equality and dignity. On the birth of a mother's first, second, or third child, they are set to receive 500, or US$11 within the first 15 days to cover their post-delivery needs. Along with this, the government gives 2,500, or US$35, to invest in a long-term savings bond in the daughter's name, which can be later cashed for 25,000, or US$350, after her 18 birthday. She can only receive the money if she is not married. Anju Malhotra, an expert on child marriage  and adolescent girls said of this programme, "No other programme  has this focus of delaying marriage... It's an incentive to encourage parents to value their daughters.”


The need  of the hour is  to provide an enabling environment for all adolescents, including those who have never been to school or who have dropped out of school. Several government initiatives specially cater to social and economic welfare of girls such as: Beti bachao,beti padhao abhiyan, Sukanya samriddhi yojana etc all are such kind of measures. However,to stop child marriage completely ,we as a society need to enact together since it is a collective responsibility. Only then we can ensure a safe,healthy  and carefree chilhood for our coming generations.

Image Source: Google Photos

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