Child marriage refers to a marriage to which either of the contracting parties is a child (if a male, has not completed 21 years of age, and if a female, has not completed 18 years of age). According to the latest National Family Health Survey-5 data, 23.3% of 60 million child marriages happened in India. States with a large population of tribal poor have a higher prevalence of child marriage. In Jharkhand, 32.2% of women in the age bracket 20-24 got married before 18, according to NFHS-5. Child marriage is far more prevalent amongst girls than boys and this highlighted the gender dimension of the problem.
BODY PARAGRAPH-1 Reasons:
BODY PARAGRAPH-2 -Govt initiatives in this regard:
1.Legislations – The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, aim at protecting children from violation of rights.
2. Amendment of personal laws – The government is keen on amending the personal laws governing marriages to stop the practice of child marriage.
3. Standing committee – A parliamentary standing committee is weighing the pros and cons of raising the age of marriage for women to 21. The task force headed by Jaya Jaitly, set up by the Centre, has told that the minimum age of marriage for girls could be raised to 21 and can be implemented in a phased manner. A bill regarding the same would be brought up soon.
4. Helplines – The government has introduced a CHILDLINE with short code 1098, a 24X7 telephone emergency outreach service for children in crisis.
5. Commissions – The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) undertakes various activities and programmes on the issue of child marriages and related matters.
6. Awareness – Several thousand child marriage prohibition officers have been notified and 90,000 local gram panchayat members have been oriented to spread awareness on child marriage.
7. Schemes – Schemes like the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Shagun Scheme, Aashirwad, etc. assist in reducing the percentage of child marriage.
Many children even today are married before the legal age and even before they have the abilities to understand the meaning of this social institution. Nevertheless, child marriages pose a threat to Indian society and public health as consequences of child marriage not only violates children’s rights, but also results in more infant and maternal deaths. In India, child marriage reduced from 47.4% in 2005-06 to 26.8% in 2015-16, registering a decline of 21% points during the decade. In the last five years, it declined to 23.3% in 2020-21, according to the latest National Family Health Survey-5 data. Hence, the progress is commendable but still there is a long way to go.