The steering committee of a global programme to end child marriage is on a visit to India to witness state interventions which have helped reduce the prevalence of child marriage. This visit is in view of an estimated increase in number of child marriages due to the Covid-19 pandemic.


About ‘Child Marriages in India’

  • In India, child marriage reduced from 47.4% in 2005-06 to 26.8% in 2015-16.
  • In the last five years, it declined by 3.5% points to reach 23.3% in 2020-21, according to the latest National Family Health Survey-5 data.
  • There is a growing trend for decline in the overall prevalence of child marriage, but 23.3% is still a disturbingly high percentage in a country with a population of 141.2 crore.
  • Eight States have a higher prevalence of child marriage than the national average —
    • West Bengal, Bihar and Tripura top the list with more than 40% of women aged 20-24 years married below 18, according to NFHS data.
  • Some States have shown a reduction in child marriages, like Madhya Pradesh (23.1% in 2020-21 from 32.4% in 2015-16), Rajasthan (25.4% from 35.4%) and Haryana.


Global Scenario

  • According to data from UNICEF, the total number of girls married in childhood stands at 12 million per year.
  • The 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals aim to eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilations, under goal 5.


Legal Intervention in India

  • There are several laws including the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, which aim at protecting children from violation of human and other rights.
  • The Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021 seeks to increase the marriage age of women from existing 18 years to 21 years.


Why minimum age of marriage for females should be increased?

  • Lack of access to education and employment
    • Women face inequalities when it comes to access to education and employment as a consequence of their early marriages.
    • It is often the case that women are denied access to education and an economic means of livelihood after entering into the institution of marriage at an early age.
    • Increasing the minimum age for marriage will lead to more women pursuing higher education and opt for employment.
  • Impact of early marriage on health of women and children
    • An early age of marriage and consequent early pregnancies have a substantial impact on the nutritional levels of mothers and their children, along with their overall health and mental wellbeing.
    • Underage mothers are at a higher risk of reproductive health challenges, malnutrition, postpartum haemorrhage, and a susceptibility to sexually transmitted diseases.


Schemes/ Policies for preventing Girl child marriage

  • Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana (SSY)
    • Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana (SSY), was launched in 2015, in order to promote the welfare of girl child.
    • It encourages parents to invest and build funds for the future studies and marriage expenses of the girl’s children.
  • Balika Samriddhi Yojana
    • Balika Samriddhi Yojana is another central government scheme to support girls in financially vulnerable sections of society.
    • This scheme ensures the enrolment and retention of girl child in primary and secondary schools.
    • It aims at the prosperity of a girl’s child and provides them with a better quality education.
  • Beti Bachao Beti Padhao
    • Among all the other girl’s child welfare schemes, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao is the most popular.
    • This scheme celebrates girl children, literally translating to Save the Girl Child, Educate the Girl child. It believes in women empowerment and creating an inclusive ecosystem for the same.
    • This scheme is to promote girl children’s safety before and after they are born.


Way forward

The solution lies in empowering girls, creating proper public infrastructure and addressing societal norms. “It is a long process, but we are getting down to the gram panchayat level, ensuring that Child Protection Committees and Child Marriage Prohibition officers are doing the job and activating community support groups”.


SourceThe Hindu


QUESTION – The fight against child marriages in India has entered a decisive stage with the pandemic exacerbating the issue. What is the government doing in this regard? Discuss in brief.