We need a multi-pronged approach to end child marriage

News: There is an increase in Child marriages in India.

What is the status of child marriages in India?

NFHS 4 data shows that one in four girls in India was being married before 18. The first phase findings of NFHS5 (2019-20) also show a similar result. Even according to other reports, more child marriages happened during the Covid pandemic.

What are the reasons behind the prevalence of child marriage?

1) Domestic work and care performed by women, 2) A belief that girls need to marry early for their safety and protection, 3) Apprehensions about the risk to family honour or economic burden.

Read here: Major reasons for prevalence of child marriage in India
What are the negatives of child marriages?

1) Violates girl human rights, 2) Lack of opportunities for women in society, 3) Impacts their overall personality from education to health, 4) Exposed to domestic abuse, 5) Women will have less decision-making powers.

There are several other outcomes that will also occur. Such as teenage pregnancy, population growth, child stunting, poor learning outcomes for children and the loss of women’s participation in the workforce etc.

What are the government initiatives to stop child marriages?

-Karnataka amended the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act in 2017 declaring every child marriage void, making it a cognizable offense and providing harsh punishment for those involved in child marriages.

Read here: Incentives and Schemes provided by the Government of India to end child marriage
What are the hurdles in stopping child marriages?

1) Patriarchal mindset 2) One size fits all approach: Although the government introduced various schemes like Conditional Cash Transfers, all failed to show the desired result.

What is the way forward?

Introduce various reforms: Like the expansion of secondary education, access to safe and affordable public transport, and support for young women to apply their education to earn a livelihood.

Education: Teachers should hold regular gender equality conversations with high school girls and boys to shape progressive attitudes that will sustain them into adulthood.

Community engagement: through programmes like Mahila Samakhya.

Involvement of various stakeholders: Bureaucrats across multiple departments, teachers, Anganwadi supervisors, panchayat and others interacting with rural communities, should be notified as child marriage prohibition officers.

Decentralized approach: Decentralising birth and marriage registration to gram panchayats will protect women and girls with essential age and marriage documents, thus better enabling them to claim their rights.

Source: This post is based on the article “We need a multi-pronged approach to end child marriage” published in the Indian Express on 25th November 2021.

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