Child marriages continue unabated in India: NGOs

“Six decades after receiving independence, child marriages continue unabated in the country,” Ranjana Kumari, president of Women Power Connect (WPC), a non-government organisation, said here at a national consultation on gender inequalities.

Attributing the situation to poor implementation of Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, she said that the consequence of child marriage was in conflict with the development aspirations of the country.

“It perpetuates health problems, marital violence, poverty and economic inequality, lack of education and awareness, lack of reproductive choice and access to measures of fertility management,” she said.In every way, child marriage contributes to aggravating gender inequality, which is inconsistent with the UNs’ Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

Referring to a National family Health Survey, Ranjana said  45 per cent of  women aged 20 to 24 years (in 2005-2006) were found to be already married before the age of 18 years.

“In terms of residence, 58.5 per cent of women aged 20 to 24 years were married before the age of 18  in rural areas and 27.9 per cent in urban areas,” she said. The median age at first marriage for women aged 25 to 49 years (in 2005- 06) was 16.8 years, while that for men in the same age group was 22.7 years.“There is a gender dimension inherent in child marriage, as the practice is more prevalent among girls than among boys,” she said.

NGO Sanlaap noted more than 60 million girls under the age of  18 are married, many to men twice their age in the world. The highest number of child marriages in the world has been recorded in south Asia where about 31.3 million girls are married by the age of  18.

“If child marriage continues at the current rate, an additional 100 million girls in developing countries will be married within the next decade,” the NGO claimed.

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