Over 40 pc women in 20-24 yr group in Karnataka were married as minors

Over 40 pc women in 20-24 yr group in Karnataka were married as minors

Sixty-one per cent of women in the 25-49 years age group in India were married as minors. Over 40 per cent of women aged between 20 and 24 years in Karnataka and 12 other states were in wedlock by the age of 18. Twenty-two per cent of the girls had even given birth by this age!

If these figures, revealed in a recent survey, are not startling enough, consider this: Forty per cent of the child marriages recorded across the world is from this country! The estimated global figure for such marriages is 60 million.
 
The survey was the basis for a report, “Marry me later: Preventing Child Marriage and Early Pregnancy in India.” Conducted by Dasra, a strategic philanthropy foundation, it had more damning disclosures of a country of child brides, extremely vulnerable to domestic violence and trauma.

Interacting with several child brides and women who had been married young across the country, the researchers had enough evidence to conclude: “For a child who becomes a bride, life changes completely without as much as a warning. She is uprooted and separated from her family, friends and everything that is familiar to her, and sent to live with her husband and his family - strangers, essentially.”

Besides an education and childhood being curtailed, she is also more likely to become a victim of domestic violence. The study found that “child brides are twice as likely to be beaten and thrice as likely to experience forced sex than girls married later.” In pure statistical terms, it was estimated that married girls under 15 years were five times as likely to die in child birth than women in their early 20’s.

They had no choice. Traumatic initiation into sexual relationships coupled with the social pressure to reproduce placed their young bodies under severe stress.

For those who survived a child birth, “the chances of experiencing a still birth or newborn death is 50 per cent higher than it is for women aged 20 to 29.”

Over the last two decades, the progress in arresting child marriages has been slow.

The first National Family Health Survey (1992-93) had found that 54 per cent of women aged 20 to 24 years were married as children. This figure dipped to 47 per cent by the last 2005-06 NFH Survey. During the same period, the median age at which girls are married increased only marginally from 16.1 years to 16.8 years.

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