Causes of Child Marriage Can Have Long-Term Effects On Young Girls

Published on August 24, 2023

Stop Child Marriage

Child marriage, a deep-rooted social issue, continues to prevail in many parts of the world, including India. Despite adequate awareness campaigns and significant progress in various sectors, the practice of child marriage remains a major concern, affecting millions of young lives and hindering their potential for a better future. At CRY, we have been advocating for the rights of underprivileged children in India and relentlessly aiding in their physical, psychological, educational and mental acumen growth with our multidisciplinary campaigns. 

In this blog, we will explore the causes and effects of early marriage, delve into the marriage system in India, and shed light on the crucial initiatives undertaken by NGOs and the government to combat this detrimental practice.

Understanding Child Marriage in India

According to UNICEF (2014), India accounts for one in every three child brides worldwide. Child marriage in India is one of the most prevalent forms of exploitation and abuse, particularly in the case of girls under the age of 18. The prevalence of this practise varies throughout all Indian states, although it is most prevalent in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Haryana, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu. CRY, the most trusted NGO in India, aims to work with communities to abolish the practice and make sure children go to school rather than get married off or have children of their own at such a tender age.
The rampant problem of child marriage and early childbirth robs millions of young girls from marginalised communities of their dreams and potential. Both urban and rural sections of the nation still practise these two social evils. As more young girls are married off at an early age to ease the financial burden on the family, the problem is only getting worse.
According to Census 2011, there are 12 million married children in India of which 8.9 million are girls. Marriage at such an impressionable age deprives children of their fundamental rights, including protection from abuse and exploitation, access to regular education, and proper health and nutrition. These children drop out and are eventually trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty that is detrimental to their healthy development. The practice of child marriage violates the fundamental birth rights of children; hence, it must be stopped and children's rights must be protected.

Causes of Child Marriage in India

Early marriage problems are often rooted in complex societal factors, including:

1. Tradition and Culture

Traditional norms and cultural beliefs play a significant role in perpetuating child marriage. In rural areas, the practice is often seen as a way to preserve traditions and maintain social status.

2. Poverty

Families living in poverty might view child marriage as a means to reduce the financial burden, as marrying off a daughter at an early age is perceived to be one less mouth to feed.

3. Gender Inequality

Deep-rooted gender discrimination and limited opportunities for girls contribute to child marriage. In some cases, girls are seen as a burden, and marrying them off at a young age is believed to secure their future.

4. Lack of Education

Limited access to education, especially for girls, increases the likelihood of child marriage. Illiterate parents may not understand the benefits of educating girls and prioritize early marriage instead.

5. Domestic Violence and Abuse

 Child brides are at a higher risk of experiencing domestic violence and abuse within their marital homes due to their vulnerable status.

6. Mental Health Challenges For Children

 Forced into adult responsibilities at a young age, child brides are more susceptible to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

Government Initiatives On Child Marriage in India

Recognizing the severity of the issue, the Indian government has taken significant steps to eradicate child marriage:

a. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (2006) sets the legal age for marriage at 18 for girls and 21 for boys. It also stipulates strict penalties for those involved in arranging child marriages.

b. Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (Save the Girl Child, Educate the Girl Child) is a government scheme launched to address gender imbalance and promote the education of girls.

c. The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) program aims to improve the health and nutrition of children and protect their rights.

At CRY, we have been working to combat this social evil by conducting awareness drives for adolescent girls, connecting parents with MNREGA job opportunities, organizing home visits to high-risk homes, educating Panchayat leaders and VCPC members about the deep-rooted effects of child marriage, tracking potential cases of impending child marriages and getting help from the police to stop them, and making sure that girls can return to school after the lockdown. In the CRY project areas in 2021–2022, CRY prevented 58,427 teenage girls between the ages of 11 and 18 from getting married as children.
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