India has the highest number of child brides in the world. According to UNICEF, child marriage is marriage before 18 years of age and the practice is considered as the violation of Human Rights. According to a 2001 survey, there are 1.5 million girls in India, under the age of 15 already married. The survey estimated that the male average age for marriage is 22.6 years. There are many harmful consequences of child marriage like lack of education and segregation from family and friends.
The various reasons for child marriage are as follows;
- Lack of Education-One of the primary reasons for child marriage is illiteracy. People staying in the rural areas cannot read or write and are unaware of their basic rights. Girls living in rural areas are married off at a very young age. Even if some of them go to the village school, they drop out after a certain age as the rural population thinks that girls must be married after a certain age. Most of the girls living in rural areas are married before they turn 18.
- Poverty-Another major reason for child marriage is poverty. In many communities, girls are considered an economic burden and marriage transfers her responsibility to her husband. Marriage expenses such as dowry are reduced if girls are married off at a young age.
- Weak Law Enforcement-Laws governing child marriage is relatively weak. Limited knowledge and understanding of how to apply laws and little understanding of the consequences of the laws also contribute to child marriage.
- Lack of Awareness-An important cause of child marriage is lack of awareness among the rural population of our country. They are unaware of the harmful consequences of marrying off girls at an early age. They also don’t know that child marriage leads to human rights violation.
In recent years, child marriage has reached increased prominence on national and international development agendas. Ending child marriage requires work across all sectors and at all levels. It requires us to understand the various reasons for child marriage and fight against it accordingly. The various ways of overcoming child marriage are as follows;
- Empowerment of Girls-One of the most important ways to deal with child marriage is to empower girls. In rural areas, girls are often seen as economic burdens so they suffer from lower self-esteem. Empowerment programs for girls are the key to fighting child marriage as such programs improve the self-esteem and confidence of girls. Empowerment programs also make the society aware of the basic rights of girls.
- Educating Parents-Parents from the rural community believe that child marriage is a way of protecting and safeguarding their daughters from sexual violence and harassment before she reaches puberty. Unfortunately, the families in the rural areas don’t know about the harmful consequences of child marriage. Such parents and families will be benefitted if they are taught and educated about the harmful effects of child marriage.
- Support Legislation against Child Marriage-Making and applying laws related to child marriage is an effective way of fighting it. Severe punishments should be given to those practising and encouraging child marriages.
- Providing Relevant Economic Support-Poverty is one of the primary reasons for forcing girls into early marriage. Most of the girl’s dropout from schools at an early age and are married off. Relevant economic support must be provided to the underprivileged people in order to make sure that their daughters are not married off at an early age.
- Spreading Awareness-In our society child marriage is still a taboo subject. Talking about it will not only educate our society but will also spread awareness about its harmful effects. To spread awareness about child marriage, talk about it with your friends, family and also share relevant information about it on the social media. Spreading adequate awareness will help the society fight against child marriage.
It is very important to end child marriage to make the society a better place to live in. The government and various NGO’s should work hard in order to change the attitude of the society towards girls and eradicate child marriage.