Child Marriage Free India Campaign

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    In News

    • Nobel Peace Laureate and child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi recently launched a nationwide campaign called ‘Child Marriage Free India’ to end the social evil of child marriage.

    About

    • The campaign launched by the Nobel Peace Laureate aims to reduce the number of child marriages by 10 percent from 23.3 percent. 
    • The campaign is launched to:
      • ensure the strict implementation of the laws on the legal age of marriage and those protecting children against abuse.
      • enhance the social and economic participation of women and children and ensure their empowerment by giving them free education till the age of 18.
      • provide safety to children against sexual exploitation

    Data/ Statistics

    • The 2011 census reported over 12 million child marriages in the country.
    • Out of 12 million child marriages, 5.2 million were girls.
    • According to NFHS 23.3 percent of women between the ages of 20 to 24 are married before turning 18. 
    • Child marriage rates are lower in South-East India and higher in the North-West region of the country
    • Bihar, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are the states with the highest rates of child marriage. 

    Primary Reasons for Child Marriage

    • Poverty: If a family is struggling financially, marrying off one of their daughters can mean one less mouth to feed and one less child to educate.
    • Safety: For families living in dangerous environments, like a refugee camp or war zone, child marriage can actually seem like a safer option.
    • Tradition: Child marriage is deeply imbedded in some cultural traditions, where it is viewed as a normal and reasonable practice.
    •  Social Insecurity: Many people have this perception that a married woman is much safer from societal offences than an unmarried woman. Unmarried women are viewed with malafide intentions that lead to crimes against them.
    • Avoiding share in Ancestral Property: Generally in rural areas parents think that all their ancestral property belongs to their sons and if they marry their daughters at an early age then they will be out of the share. 
    •  Avoiding expenditure on Female Education: Usually families discriminate between boys and girls. Female children are considered a burden as they do not need to work and have to look after the household chores before and after marriage. 

    Impacts of Child Marriage

    • Human rights violation: Child marriage is a violation of human rights and dignity, which unfortunately still has social acceptance.
    • Harmful impacts: It has a serious impact on the education, health, and safety of the childrens.
    • Reduces Education Rates For Girls: Child marriage typically marks the end of a girl’s education. Once she’s married, she’s expected to take care of her husband and start having children, leaving little time for school or a career.
    •  Traps families in a cycle of poverty: Child marriage might seem to make financial sense in the short term for struggling parents, but it can actually trap families in a cycle of poverty.
    • Contributes to higher fertility rates: Younger brides are more likely to have larger families because they have more child-bearing years during married life. They also usually face a greater inequality with their husbands, resulting in the wife having little to no say in when or how many children to have. 
    •  Inabilities to Plan or Manage Families: Young girls exercise less influence and control over their children and have less ability to make decisions about their nutrition, health care and household management. 
    •  Desire for Male Child: Due to desire for a male child, young girls and women are forced to conceive as many times as she can till she gives birth to a male child. 

    Laws against the Child Marriage in India

    •  The Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929: It is also known as the Sarda Act. It was a law enacted to restrain the practices of Child Marriage.
      • Its main goal was to eliminate the evils placed on young girls who could not handle the stress of married life and to avoid early deaths.
      • This act defined a male child as 21 years or younger and a female child as 18 years or younger.
    • The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act of 2006: Under this act, the marriageable age for a male is prescribed as 21 years and that of a female is 18 years.
      • Child Marriage is prohibited in India as per the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.
    •  Hindu Marriage Act, 1956: Under Hindu Marriage Act, there are no certain provisions for punishing the parents or people who solemnized the marriage. 
      • A girl can get the marriage annulled only if she wants to get married before attaining the age of fifteen years and she challenges the marriage before turning eighteen.
    •  Muslim Personal Law: Under the Muslim Laws, there is no bar to child marriage. The couple after marriage has an “option of puberty” known as Khayar-ul-bulugh in which they can repudiate the marriage after attaining the age of puberty. 

    Way Forward

    • Increasing the age: The Government of India’s proposal to increase the marriageable age of girls from 18 to 21 should be supported by all.
    • Role of religious leaders: They should take a stand against child marriages and ensure that the social evil is not continued.
    • SDG Goal: Elimination of child marriage has also been given priority in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
    • Support system for girls: Develop strong support systems to keep girls in school. Provide scholarships where necessary and encourage teachers to support girls.
    • Community networks: Strengthen and establish community networks and partnerships involving girls clubs, teachers, elders, local government officials, women and youth groups, community and religious leaders, etc. that jointly work towards ending early marriage.
    •  Strengthen the role of the judicial system: Particularly the police, judges, and persecutors through training on enforcement of the law against early marriage. 

    Source: IE