Despite the laws advocating 18 and 21 as minimum age for marriages of girls and boys, a substantial proportion of girls and boys are subjected to child marriages in India. Discuss the underlying factors driving child marriages and impacts of the same on Indian society.

India has high incidence of child marriage. UNICEF report suggests that India saw a sharp decline in child marriages over the last ten years with 27 per cent of girls getting married before their 18th birthday as against 47 per cent a decade ago.
The underlying factors driving child marriage in India are
Economic factors

  • Patriarchal mindset perceives girl child as a burden. Marriage is seen as an opportunity to transfer the burden.
  • Poverty forces them to marry off the girls at lower age.
  • The menace of dowry is deep rooted in Indian society. Marriage is seen as an wealth generating opportunity as it brings dowry to the bride groom’s family.

Social factors

  • Lack of educational opportunities makes the girls vulnerable for marrying them off at early age.
  • Cultural perspectives encourage child marriage.
  • Patriarchy and gender inequalities
  • Lack of voice for female gender also put them at mercy of male. As a result they lack the ability to resist the marriage at early ages.

Impact of child marriage on Indian society

  • Early marriages lead to early pregnancies at an age when her mind and body are not ready to accept and cooperate towards the new responsibility. This leads to adverse impact on her health. This has also resulted in high rates of maternal and infant mortality.
  • Early marriage often restricts her education and social well being. This increases her vulnerabilities. As a result she is being reduced to a second gender.
  • Early marriage is also a violation of child rights. The child rights to election, mental and physical well being would be violated.

The child marriage rates even though on decline they are in significant numbers when seen in absolute terms. The legislative measures like prohibition of child marriage act 2006 have been enacted. But lack of effective implementation and societal non cooperation with the authorities has led to inabilities to curb the child marriages.

Question for UPSC Mains:
Despite the laws advocating 18 and 21 as minimum age for marriages of girls and boys, a substantial proportion of girls and boys are subjected to child marriages in India. Discuss the underlying factors driving child marriages and impacts of the same on Indian society. {250 words, 15 Marks}

Published: April 21, 2018 | Modified:June 27, 2019

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