• Data Watch: Comprehending the Risks of Child Marriage

    We’d love to say that child marriages in India are a thing of the past, but this is still not true. Around 47% of girls are married off by the time they are 18 years old. The legal age for a girl to get married in India is 18 years, yet half the population of girls have to deal with marriage before they are even mature enough to know better. Some girls are even married off when they are 7 or 8 years old. These age old practices need to be stopped as they are detrimental to our society and country.

    It is an unfortunate truth, but marriage comes with a lot of burden for women, especially sexually. These girls hardly know about their anatomy and they are subject to sexual relations with their husbands who are often much older and more experienced than them.

    Child marriages are a violation of human rights, and this is why we need to spread awareness about the physical and mental health risks that these girls go through. It is an unfortunate truth, but marriage comes with a lot of burden for women, especially sexually. These girls hardly know about their anatomy and they are subject to sexual relations with their husbands who are often much older and more experienced than them. Marital rape and sexual abuse is also a common problem in these marriages.

    These girls oftentimes become pregnant when their bodies are still developing. Girls from the age of 15 to 19 develop more complications in pregnancies because their bodies are not ready to deliver a child. There are risks of diseases and even death, depending on the health of the girl. Low contraception rates and lack of family planning can disrupt a young girl’s life and also cause mental health problems.

    • India has the highest number of child brides in the world

    • 47% of Indian girls are married before their 18th birthday

    • 18% of Indian girls are married before their 15th birthday

    • The legal age for marriage is 18 for women, 21 for men, according to the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) of 2006

    • India is one of 12 countries selected to be part of UNFPA and UNICEF’s Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage

    Source: Girls Not Brides

    Post traumatic stress disorder is a common mental illness amongst women who are married off early. This may be because of marital rape, sexual abuse, miscarriages or abuse by the husband or in-laws. Since these girls live isolated lives in their husband’s house (as they are not allowed to go out much), they do not have the right information to mental health disorders or contraception. All these issues lead to a weakened immune system for the girl which does not allow them to live a full and happy life.

    Making changes in social norms is a long and hard process. It is never easy. Men need to be educated and learn about the risks that child marriage comes with. Kate Whittington from Girls Not Brides says, “Engaging and educating men and boys to understand that women’s rights are human rights is an important part of changing attitudes and behaviors.” Families need to understand that it is not healthy or beneficial for a girl to be married at such a young age. Girls who delay their marriage until after 18, have chances to have healthier pregnancies and family planning. These can help them live a better lifestyle for themselves and their families.

    Picture Credit: Himalayan Times