The minimum age for marriage in India is 18 years for girls and 21 for boys. Any marriage that is under this age is called child marriage.
India ranks second in South Asia in terms of the highest number of child marriages and sixth in the world. One of the primary reasons for parents getting their daughters married at an early age is the perception that they are a ‘burden’.
Other reasons such as lack of education, blind faith, and weak economic status, bride-price, dowry, cultural traditions, laws that allow child marriages, religious and social pressures, regional customs, and also fear of remaining unmarried, and perceived inability of women to work for money etc. add to this societal evil.
The biggest setback of child marriages is that there is no physical and mental development of teenage girls, due to which either the mother dies at childbirth or the infant dies, sometimes even both. Even if everything goes right, the mother herself is still a child- how is she expected to take care of herself and another child?
Even though there are strict laws in India to restraint child marriage, it is widely practiced still. It has been prevalent since the time of the monarchy; it was strongly opposed by many reformists like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Keshav Chandra etc. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 came into force on 1 November 2007 in India, which has led to an improved situation to some extent. But is that enough? We need to eradicate this evil in every way.
Even after implementing this law stringently, just 12 of 29 states are home to 40% of child brides in India, with the highest prevalence in West Bengal, where at least one in four girls (25.6%) between the ages of 20 and 24 years got married before she turned 18. The situation in Bihar, Jharkhand, and Rajasthan has rather improved.
To eliminate this evil, children and their families should not only be educated but should also be made aware. In Kerala, even with a 100% literacy rate, child marriage is still a practice. We have to take a stronger action to stop this.
Small steps like nukkad-nataks (street plays), awareness through media can create a huge impact. We have to educate each other about the repercussions of child marriage, only then will people become sensitive towards the issue.
Say no to child marriages and yes to childhood!