Too Young To Wed: Child Marriage in India

UN campaign

A wise man once told me, ‘If I had a penny for every woman, from an Indian city, who is hooked to Balika Vadhu, I’d be swimming in money.’  The sad truth is that behind every successful man is a woman who watches this amazing TV series, thanks to which he prefers working more than returning home to be tortured.

Jokes apart, this show brought the citizens of urban India to terms with a very harsh reality. Away from city lights and honking cars, Child Marriage is still a major problem in our country. Scenarios where children are married off by parents in exchange for money are not works of fiction. And Colors TV has done its fair share of work to demotivate this age-old practice.

number of child marriages

Alas, as is the habit of Indian television networks, there is an infinite amount of sugar coating, under-statement of the necessary and over-dramatization of the unnecessary.

In the television universe, this is how child marriage goes:

  1. Poor family auctions off their child to a rich family for some money.
    2. Rich family uses her as a servant.
    3. Rich family grows a conscience.
    4. They all live happily ever after and the child becomes an advocate for change in the society.

In the real world things aren’t exactly the same. It goes something like…

  1. Poor family auctions off their child to a rich family for some money.
    2. Rich family uses her as a servant.
    3. The girl is repeatedly tortured – mentally, physically and sexually.
    4. The girl accepts her fate and lives her life, unfulfilled and unhappy.

percentage married underage

As a result of the sexual experiences these children go through (which they are clearly not ready for, mentally or physically), maternal deaths are common. Also, the children they bear are more likely to suffer from poor health conditions. Young girls also suffer through domestic violence and often show signs of post-traumatic stress.

number of child brides

While child marriages in urban India are nearly non-existent, they still take place in rural households. However, as a seemingly positive sign, the rates of child marriage have been falling consistently for the last few decades. This goes to show how we have grown as a country, and how India is not lost in some hopeless abyss just yet.

Maternal mortality rates

Many initiatives have come up in the recent past, which support the eradication of the practice of marrying off children during their adolescent years. The most influencial, and arguably the most successful, initiative is ABAD (Apni Beti, Apna Dhan) which was initiated by the Haryana Government in 1994. It aims at giving monetary incentives to parents, to ensure that they don’t marry their children at a tender age.

nujood

Apart from ABAD, organizations such as Vasavya Mahila Mandali, The Knowledge Hub and Saarthi Trust have also been successful in spreading the message of how harmful the practice can prove to be. It’s great to see India progressing the way it is when it comes to such matters. Of course, there is room for improvement. But if we, the youth, keep spreading the word on social issues, it’s bound to have an impact; if not now, then maybe twenty years down the line. Let’s make a better India for everyone to live in. Let’s make it a safer country for children to live in.

 

 

By Lakshaya Soin

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