Every 7 seconds, a girl under 15 is married, said a study by Save the Children earlier this year.
In India, the stats are grim when it comes to child marriage. In fact, our country appears in the list of countries with the highest number of child brides in the world. According to data, 47% of girls in India are married off before they reach the age of 18. In some states such as Bihar, the figure is as high as 69% and Rajasthan 65%.
The northeastern side of the country doesn’t always make it to the front pages of newspapers, but child marriages are very prevalent due to the tribal and rural population residing there. Child marriage is followed as a tradition in these areas. Recently, a 15-year-old girl was saved from getting married to a 17-year-old-minor in Assam.
TOI reported that Childline (Guwahati unit) received a call on November 27 about a child marriage. The unit rushed to the location along with the police to rescue the bride and groom. The guardians of the children were questioned and the girl was taken for medical tests and then to a shelter home.
The father’s explanation on getting the child married is the general perception many families hold in India. He said, “Nowadays, kids run away if the family doesn’t support their decision. So we thought of marrying her off now before any unfortunate event happens.”
The Child Welfare Committee subsequently decided to restore the child to the parents after counselling sessions with them. The 15-year-old girl, who was taken to a shelter for women run by the Indian Council for Child Welfare, was sent home along with her parents after formalities, said a staff at Childline’s Guwahati unit when contacted by SheThePeople. The staff also said that they hardly receive 6-7 such calls in a year. The number only reinforces the fact that half of the child marriages go unreported.
Kriti Bharti, a rehabilitation psychologist and the managing trustee of Saarthi Trust, says girls are seen as a burden on their parents. She accepts that a certain group of people is actually poor and resorts to child marriage. But, she says, this isn’t just because they are poor, this has more to do with culture and traditions as well. Another reason as to why girls are married is to minimise the possibilities of a girl bringing ‘dishonour’ to the family.
Bharti emphasised the fact that a major reason this social problem exists is because of the lack of right implementation of law. This social vice has been prevalent in our society for the longest time and laws were made almost 100 years ago to demolish child marriage practises. Kriti questioned the government’s way of tackling this grave issue.
She said the most important thing here is to tell people of the ill effects their child will go through when married at a young age. She said, “Awareness of the punishment is important but more important is the need to educate people of the effects the child will have to suffer life long.”