Child Marriage

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    Recently, incidents of child marriage have surfaced across the country raising serious concerns.

    Child Marriage

    • It is a marriage or union before the age 18.
    • Child marriages in parts of Europe and Central Asia may reflect a hardening of gender attitudes that reinforce stereotypical roles for girls and limit their opportunities.
    • Child marriage is often linked to patriarchal attitudes towards girls, including the need to safeguard family ‘honour’.
    • While some boys marry before the age of 18, the vast majority of children who marry are girls, often against their will and with grave consequences.

    Impacts

    • It has a disproportionate impact on girls and curtails their education, compromises their health and traps them in poverty, undermining their prospects and potential.
    • Child brides experience isolation from their family, friends and communities, as well as violence, abuse and exploitation.
    • Girls who marry early often become pregnant while they are still children themselves, with great risks for their own well-being and that of their babies. 
    • There are clear links between child marriage and school drop-out, with girls who are married before the age of 18 less likely to be in school than their peers, and girls who drop out of school more likely to be married.
    • Rescued children are not produced in most cases before the Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) and are often sent back to their parents if they are produced before the CWC resulting in forced marriage in secrecy.
    • Others are forced to reside in the same socioeconomic cultural situation, leading to frustration and anxiety.
    • Those who stay with their parents, face adversity and humiliation every day and such instances are discouraging adolescents to raise their voice against child marriage.

    Legislative Protection

    • Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929: It restricts the practice of child marriage.
    • Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006: It was enacted to address and fix the shortcomings of the Child Marriage Restraint Act.
    • Special Marriage Act, 1954 and Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006: These prescribe 18 and 21 years as the minimum age of consent for marriage for women and men respectively.
    • Juvenile Justice Care and Protection Act, 2015: Powers to safeguard the best interests of India’s children.
      • For this purpose, Child Protection Committees, Child Protection Units and CWCs have been formed and are functioning at the district level.
    • Committee by the Ministry for Women and Child Development: To examine matters pertaining to age of motherhood, imperatives of lowering Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) and the improvement of nutritional levels among women.
    • District Child Protection Unit (DCPU): Responsible for identification and rescues children in need of care and protection.
    • District Child Protection Committee: These are headed by the Chairperson of the Zilla Parishad and are nodal organisations at the district level to review and monitor the work related to ensuring child rights.
    • State governments are trying to reduce child marriages to zero by 2030.
    • Sustainable Developmental Goal (SDG) 5: It deals with gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls with an aim to prevent child marriage.

    Suggestions

    • After stopping a child marriage, the relatives should be monitored and the child should be provided with support and protection.
    • Strategies to delay or prevent child marriage:
      • Empower girls with information, skills and support networks.
      • Provide economic support and incentives to girls and their families.
      • Educate and rally parents and community members.
      • Enhance girls’ access to a high-quality education.
      • Encourage supportive laws and policies.
    • In order for the next generation of development programmes to make ending child marriage a priority, policymakers must pay attention to these strategies while continuing to test innovative approaches and evaluation techniques.
    • There should be focus on those girls who are most at-risk and mobilise those who influence families and wider society to give girls more control over their own lives and prospects.
    • It should be addressed through programming across sectors to tackle the many aspects of this harmful practice, particularly in marginalized communities.
    • Ending child marriage involves tackling the many challenges that perpetuate this rights violation, such as gender inequality and discrimination, lack of education, and poverty. 

    Source: DTE