Child Marriage

Sujay Sarkar

    As per definition the term “ Child Marriage ” is used to describe a legal or customary union between two people of whom one or both spouse are below the age of 18.While boys can be subjected to child marriage, the practice affects girls in greater numbers and with grave consequences. Child marriage is often referred to as “ early ” and /or “ forced ” marriage since children, given their age are not able to give free, prior and informed consent to their marriage partners or to the timing of their marriage. Many girls for example may have little understanding of or exposure to other life options. They may “ willingly ”accept marriage as their allotted fate. An element of coercion may also be involved in families, apply emotional or social pressure or urge marriage in the life (misguided)belief that such a union will keep their daughter safe.

Source : Quoted from United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA),Marry Too Young : End Child Marriage11 ( 2012 ).


Child Marriage in India :

According to Indian law child marriage where either the woman is below age of 18 years  or the man is below the age of 21.Most child marriage involves underage woman many of whom are in poor socio-economic conditions. Child marriage most often occurs in poor rural communities. In many regions parents arrange their daughters marriage “ unbeknownst ”to the girl. That can mean that one day she may be at home playing with her siblings and the next day she’s married off and send to live in another village with her husband and his family – stranger essentially. She is pulled out of school, separated from her peers and once married she is more likely to be a victim of domestic violence & suffer health complications associated with early sexual activity & child bearing. A grim reality is one in nine is married before the age of 15. In addition to falling victims to early marriage, these girls are typically from rural areas & have little wealth or education . It is estimated that in the next 10 years about 14 million child marriage will occur each year in developing countries. According to 2011 nationwide census of India, the average age of marriage of woman in India is 21.1. In the age group of 15-19 years, 69.6% of all woman surveyed in India had never been married. States with highest observed marriage rates for under – 18 girls in 2009, according to Registrar General of India report – were Jharkhand (14.1%), West Bengal (13.6%), Bihar (9.3%), Uttar Pradesh (8.9%), & Assam (8.8%). Despite sharp reduction in child marriage rates since 1991, still 7% of women passing the age of 18 in India were married as of 2009. Different laws against child marriage like – the Child Marriage  Restraint Act of 1929 ( Sarada Act )…The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006, CEDAW etc. has been instrumental in curbing this menace.

Read More: icrw; wikipedia


Child Marriage In South Asia :

Child marriage is a human rights crisis occurring on an alarming scale in South Asia. The region accounts for almost half of all child marriage that occurs globally the most of any region in the world, however the practice persists with impunity. Here 46% of women between age 20-24 years, reports having been married before age 18 in 2010, this translated to 24.4 million women in the region. Estimates project that from 2010 to 2030, 130 million more girls in the region will be married. Governments in South Asia have an absolute legal obligation to eliminate child marriage. The persistence of child marriage in the region indicates the widespread failure of governments to address one of the most critical human rights issue facing women & girls in the region & absence of state accountability for violations of their human rights & constitutional rights. Child marriage does not constitute a single rights violation, rather every instance of child marriage triggers a continuum  of violations that continues throughout a girl’s life – child marriage endangers the survival, well-being of women & rights by exposing them to forced initiation into sex and ongoing sexual violence as well as to early, unplanned and frequent pregnancies. Further women & girls married as children are often denied educational opportunities, are isolated from society and face a life-time economic dependence. Together child marriage & early pregnancies trap generations of women in cycles of poverty. These harm results in significant violations of girls rights, including their reproductive rights & their right to freedom from gender-based violence. Ensuring accountability for child marriage entails both holding responsible those officials who have failed to implement laws & policies against the practice and addressing legal & social barriers that prevent married girls seeking to leave such marriages form being able to do so. It also requires the introduction of specific legal measures & remedies to address the particular needs of married girls.

Among South Asian countries Sri Lanka is recognized as a model for elimination of child marriage, reports have been emerging in conflict-affected areas & where customary law apply. Child marriage in South Asia reflects the dominance of patriarchal norms surrounding marriage which view girls as object to be “ protected ”and exchanged as commodities rather than as bearer of rights. These norms lead to the treatment of daughters as economic burdens whose primary value is their virginity & reproductive capacity. In rural and poor areas girls are particular vulnerable to child marriage due to the predominance of these patriarchal views & widespread poverty. The risk of child marriage is so exacerbated for girls in conflict & disaster – affected areas where there are increased risk of poverty from financial instability & sexual violence that pose a threat to girls bodily integrity & virginity.

Read More: reproductiverights



1)   Child Marriage Fact Sheet:

…..In India, nearly half (43%) of women aged 20 to 24 are married before the age of 18. There has been a decline in the incidence of child marriage nationally & in nearly all states ( from 54% in 1992-93 to 43% in 2007-08 )but the pace of change remain slow…..

2)   ICRW and it’s functioning :

Through our research, ICRW is leading efforts to find solutions that will eliminate the harmful practice of child marriage and provide support to already married adolescents……..

3)   Grim report: On the reproductive health of married girls.

One out of every three girls in developing countries is married before the age of 18, and one in nine is married before age 15. In addition to falling victim to early marriage, these girls are typically from rural areas and have little wealth or education. It is estimated that in the next 10 years, about 14 million child marriages will occur each year in developing countries…….

4)   Center for Reproductive Rights: Brief Paper / Child Marriage in South Asia.

Child marriage is a human rights crisis occurring on an alarming scale in South Asia. South Asia accounts for almost half of all child marriages that occur globally1 the most of any region in the world. Child marriage, defined internationally as marriage where one or both spouses are under the age of 18, is legally prohibited under many national laws in the region as well as by international human rights treaties adopted by South Asian countries; however, the practice persists with impunity. In South Asia, 46% of women between ages 20-24 report having been married before age 18—in 2010, this translated to 24.4 million women in the region.3.Estimates project that from 2010 to 2030, 130 million more girls in the region will be married………………….

5)   UNICEF : Early Marriage in South Asia / A discussion paper

It is a discussion paper on early marriage in South Asia…

6)   Asia Child planned Marriage Initiative : Summary of Research in Bangladesh, India and Nepal.

7)   Celebrating Girl Children in Bangladesh :

With a view to build mass awareness of the importance of valuing girls, securing their rights and advocating for policies that improve girls’ lives, the National Girl Child Advocacy Forum (NGCAF), of which The Hunger Project is a founding member, the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, and Bangladesh Shishu Academy celebrated Bangladesh’s National Girl Child Day 2014 on September 30 on the theme “Ensure Education and Nutrition; Stop Child Marriage.”…………….

8)   SAIEVAC Initiative

Child Marriage is rampant in South Asia with 48 per cent of young women reporting being married before the age of 18. Child Marriage usually occurs because of poverty and the lack of economic opportunities for girls in rural areas. Girls are either seen as an economic burden or valued as capital for their exchange value in terms of goods, money or livestock. Child Marriage may also be seen as a way of protecting young girls and ensuring their security. Research has shown that child brides are often more likely to experience domestic violence and sexual abuse and least likely to take action against this abuse….

9)   South Asia is home to highest number of child brides

Forced early marriages are rampant in South Asia, primarily because of cultural ideas about the appropriate age of marriage .The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) estimates that over 140 million girls will be married before their 18th birthday over the next decade and almost 50 percent of these child brides are in South Asia………….

10) Child marriages in South Asia : Realities ,Responses and  the way forward.

-Tina Khanna, Ravi Verma and Ellen Weiss



11) Laws related to Child marriage in India :

The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 (19 of 1929) : An Act to restrain the solemnisation of child marriage. Section 1 : Short title extent and commencement – (1) This Act may be called the Child Marriage Restraint Act, (1929). (2) It extends to the whole of India (except the State of Jammu and Kashmir) and it applies also to all citizen of India without and beyond India. (3) It shall come into force on the 1st day of April, 1930…………….

12) Hand Book on Prohibition of Child marriage Act 2006

The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 : The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 (PCMA, 2006) was notified on 10 January 2007 to overcome the constraints of the former legislations in effectively dealing with the problem of child marriages in India and to put in place a comprehensive mechanism.

It came into force on 1 November 2007…………………



13) Child Brides of South Asia : How education will unlock the prison of child marriage for young girls / The Diplomat / Oct.17th 2014.

South Asia accounts for almost half of global child marriages, in which an underage girl is married to a man, who is usually much older than she is. A UNICEF study of out-of-school children found that there is a gender gap, where girls are more likely to be excluded from school than boys….

14) UNICEF : Child marriage rampant in South Asia / ALJAZEERA / 12th Sept.2014.

New report reveals that 46 percent of girls in the region marry before 18, while 18 percent marry before 15. two million South Asian children die before their fifth birthday of preventable causes and nearly 38 percent of the region’s children have chronic malnutrition….

15) Marriage in Rajasthan

Rajasthan is the only state in the country where the mean age at marriage for boys and girls is lower than the legal age at marriage. Annual health survey (AHS) indicates that nearly one-fourth of girls are getting married before reaching the age of 18 years whereas the average age for boys stand at 20.7 years….

16) Rajasthan boy refuses to marry minor, moves court

An 18-year-old boy approached a court in Jodhpur against his parents, who he claimed were forcing him to marry a minor girl against his wish…

17) Sixteen-year-old in Rajasthan refuses to accept her child marriage

A 16-year-old-girl in Rajasthan has rejected her child marriage that took place when she was only a-year-old. The girl was not aware of this, till the time her in-laws approached her family to take her to their house a few days back….

18) India has second highest number of child marriages : UNICEF / The Hindu / 12th Sept.2014.

The highest rate of child marriage is in Bangladesh (where two out of every three girls marry before age 18), followed by India, Nepal and Afghanistan. India had the highest number of unregistered children under age five between 2000 and 2012 and the second-highest number of child marriages, according to a U.N. report which said the country still needs to improve immunisation coverage and stop gender-based sex selection….

19) Child marriage on rise in Kerala: UNICEF / Manglorean / 29th  Aug. 2014.

Child marriage is more common among certain groups and among disadvantaged communities. According to a UNICEF report, in India there were more child marriages in rural areas than urban….

20) Child marriage on rise in Kerela : UNICEF / IBN Live / 29th  Aug. 2014.

In the southern part of India we have a relatively better gender balance which explains lower rates of child marriage. Nevertheless, recent studies have shown a rising rate in Kerala,” UNICEF’s Child Protection Specialist in India Dora Giusti said. In Kerala it was not the case even a few years back, but of late there has been a rise in it due to migration from the northern part of India….

21) Abolition of Child marriage in India will take 50years more : Unicef / Zee News / 26th Aug.2014.

Child marriage has been declining at a rate of one percent per year in the last two decades, but at this rate it will be eliminated in 50 years or so. Child marriage is still a widely accepted practice ruled by social norms and gender roles. Girls are still seen as a burden and not worthy of investing on….

22) India has 6th highest Child marriages in the World / Hindustan Times / 22nd July 2014.

Child marriage among girls is most common in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and India is among the top 10 countries with the highest rates of child marriage. In India, about 27% of women aged 20 to 49 years were married before age 15….

23) More News on Child marriage in India / NDTV

One-Third of Indian Women are Underweight. According to UNICEF Abolition of Child Marriage Will Take 50 Years More ….


Image: Flickr  via jonycunha


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