According to the 2011 census, there are close to 15 million girls who are married before the legal age every year. Even though it is illegal for a girl to be married before the age of 18 years the practice of child marriage continues to be widespread in India.
There are many reasons for girl child marriage, most of them
being cultural, social and religious traditions and beliefs. In many villages, it is believed that getting a girl married as early as possible keeps the family’s honor and credibility safe. But little does the society realize that all this at the cost of the girl’s future. Child marriage denies the most basic rights like right to education, health and safety to the girls who are subjected to it.
It has a serious negative impact on the life of the child. Below are few of the ways in which child marriage affects the girl child:
- Denial of basic rights: The Convention on the Rights of the Child which has been ratified by most countries around the globe guarantee particular rights to children and most of these are abused by the practice of child marriage like right to education, right to rest and leisure, right to protection from mental or physical abuse including rape and sexual exploitation. These rights are important for the mental, emotional and physical development of the child and denial of this can have far-reaching negative consequences.
- Illiteracy: Child brides often have to give up on education as they are expected to take up household responsibilities. This denies the girls the opportunity to be independent and to empower herself. While it is believed that educating a woman can help educate future generations, the opposite also is true. An uneducated woman will not be able to educate her own children in case of financial difficulties or other adverse conditions. Illiteracy also results in that the child is dependent on her family for sustenance and this puts her in a powerless situation leading to easy exploitation and abuse.
- Violence and abuse: The psychological and physical implications of forced sexual relations at an early age cannot even be estimated. Young girls are vulnerable to sexual abuse by their own partners and have no way of defending themselves or approaching anybody for help. They are also vulnerable to diseases that are transmitted sexually.
- Early Motherhood: Early motherhood is one of the most adverse effects of child marriage and often leads to the death of the young mother during child birth. Too young, mentally and physically to become a mother, early motherhood puts the health of the mother and child in danger. According to research, girls younger than 15 years old are five times more likely to die during childbirth than girls above the age of 20. The Infant Mortality Rates in such cases also is very high and their underdeveloped bodies are not ready for maternity and the challenge that come with maternity.
Inspite of the Child Marriage Act of 2006, that includes punitive measures against those who follow this practice, the number of young girls forced to marry at a young age continues to be high. There are many NGOs in India like CRY, working to eradicate this issue and empower the girl child.
You can help make a difference by volunteering with or contributing to these organisations.