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How Can India Prosper If Its Girls Are Married Away As Child Brides?


Canadian High CommissionEditor’s Note: This post is a part of #EveryGirlInSchool, a campaign by the High Commission of Canada, Nutrition International and Youth Ki Awaaz to advocate for equal opportunities for girls in India. Join the conversation by publishing a story here.

By Aditi Salkar: 

For most of us, a wedding day is something to look forward to. To plan and prepare. Or something to look back with fond memories of a choice once made. But not for Anjali.

Anjali loved to study and dreamed of becoming a doctor. Going to school was the only thing that made her happy, gave her hope. But when she was 14, and just after she got her periods, her parents told her she had to quit school and that she was too old for school. Her parents convinced her that getting married is the right thing to do and forced her to marry a man who was almost a decade older than her, whom she never met before. From wanting to be a doctor all she is now is a child bride.

Number of Child Brides in India

Violence against women and girls is a global problem that affects millions of women every year. In fact, it is estimated that one in three women and girls experience violence in their lifetime. Child marriage is a manifestation of that violence. Each year, 15 million girls are married before the age of 18. That’s one girl every 2 seconds. Child marriage puts women and girls at particular risk of sexual, physical and psychological violence throughout their lives.

While no extensive research has been done on the causes, the reasons across regions given were:

  • Poverty and economic transactions
  • Subjugation of women
  • Patriarchal attitudes towards women and regulation of their lives
  • The belief that girls are ready to get married after menarche (first period)
  • Culture and Tradition
  • Lack of education
  • Gender discrimination
  • Lack of employment or unemployment
  • Lack of transportation and basic amenities in school
  • Social as well as economic protection
Child Marriage in India, State-wise Statistics

When global development professionals talk about child marriage and how to eradicate it, they often focus on health and societal consequences, like how early marriage rises a girl’s risk of dying during childbirth or how child marriage perpetuates poverty, etc. However, other serious health effects of child marriage — like depression and anxiety — tend to get overlooked.

Child marriage had a significant impact on not just women’s but also men’s psychological well-being. Being forced into marriage (often to a stranger) and the burden of marital responsibilities, most notably partner’s sexual demands and childbearing and child-rearing, lead to significant emotional distress and depression. Mental health implications may include a sense of worthlessness, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Effects of early marriages can lead to several psychological illnesses and disorders such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, manic disorders, dissociative disorders, etc.  

Due to early marriages, young children are denied an appropriate childhood and adolescence while they are forced to grow up and act in a mature way. Denying young children their childhood hampers their overall growth and development because of which they don’t have the ability to deal with responsibilities, early pregnancy and pregnancy-related mortality and morbidity, causing major physiological and psychological health issues, resulting in losing relationship confidence and ability to maintain a healthy relationship.

Child marriages rob children of their sense of empowerment and personal identity; also an incomplete education leads to lack of employment and career prospects – all of which contribute to the cyclical nature of poverty, gender inequality and child marriage.

The Effects of Child Marriage

Child Marriage is a major psychological trauma and a menace that cannot be curbed without support from the society. Mere legislation will not serve the purpose unless there is support and backing from the society. How can a country prosper when a section of young women and men are confined by prejudice of the society and the only thing expected from them is rearing and caring of children? What is required on the part of the citizens and the government in general is to join hands and raise a movement so wide that every child is made aware of their rights and everyone in society knows the repercussions of child marriage.

What are the Laws Against Child Marriage in India?

Is child marriage a criminal offence? YES! Can one be punished for abetting in or being associated with a child's marriage? Absolutely!Find out about the act in place for child marriage in India and what is the price one needs to pay when one violates this act. It's time we #EndChildMarriage! Are you with us? Share this video!#FreetoBeAChildUNICEF India UFO Digital Cinema नवी उमेद Navi UmedShaishav Child Rights Child line Pratham Books Child Rights Connect Child Rights Movement Aarambh – An Initiative Against Child Sexual Abuse Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India

Posted by Nine is Mine on Wednesday, October 17, 2018

If we work together to tackle child marriage, we can create a world where children are empowered, in charge of their own destinies, and able to live their lives free from violence. This is a world that makes all of us better off.

NineisMine, with the support of UNICEF India, is running a campaign to spread awareness about child marriage in India and its solutions. Follow along the campaign on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The author is a Psychotherapist at PRATYeK.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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