India Has Made Child Marriage Illegal since 1930, But Why Does it Still Occur?
India is a country where women are worshipped as goddesses, but why is it that the same country abuses and dehumanizes its women? Especially innocent girls? Child marriage affects both girls and boys but it affects girls disproportionately as they experience rape, acid attacks, domestic violence, and other abuse. Child marriage refers to either an informal or formal union of a child under 18 to an adult or another child. Child marriage violates the rights of children and puts them at high risk for having to endure violence. Around 650 million girls have been married before the age of 18 across the world, according to UNICEF, with India having the highest numbers. Almost half of all child brides live in India.
What leads parents to marry their children off?
It is very difficult to imagine why any parent would want to marry and send their child away, but most times they don’t have a choice. Laws have been passed in India but child marriages still occur. There are many different reasons which could lead to child marriages still occurring. Poverty is a main reason. Many poverty-stricken Indians marry their daughters off because of pervasive gender inequality. There are practices in poor village areas where daughters get drowned right after birth or aborted during the pregnancy just for the sole reason of being a female. Villages used to have a shortage of daughters for their sons to marry for this reason. Daughters were and in some places still are seen as burdens to the village society. When parents face economic hardship they believe that sending their daughter off will help secure her future. There are some places where the younger the girl is, the less dowry her parents have to pay the groom’s family, which leads to the girl getting sent off earlier. Some parents even marry their daughters off as a source of income. Child marriage rates for boys are very low-but it still occurs. They don’t have it as bad as girls but it is still equally horrible how innocent kids get ripped away from their childhood and innocence.
What are the outcomes of children getting married early?
Marrying children off early is a violation of rights and takes away their opportunities for education and freedom. Child brides have an increased risk of death during childbirth due to getting pregnant before their bodies have matured. Along with death during childbirth, they are also prone to abuse. Due to a lack of education, they are less able to advocate for themselves. Mental illness can occur from repeated abuse and isolation from family members. The outcomes of child marriage reach beyond childbrides themselves: children of child brides are 60 percent more likely to die in the first year of life than those born to mothers older than 19. Both girls and boys get their futures and aspirations destroyed from child marriages. They are children and deserve to live like children.
What has been done about child marriage? How can I help?
Laws all around the world have passed prohibiting child marriage but it still occurs. Those laws need to be strengthened and enforced, but laws alone will not fix this issue. Education and gender equality need to be taught-especially in areas with high poverty rates. Areas with high poverty rates need economic help so the numbers of child marriage and other discrimination can be eradicated or significantly lowered. Girls can play an important role in this. According to UNFPA, “when girls are empowered to claim their rights, they can persuade their families to delay or cancel engagements. They can stay in school, gain skills, and support their families economically. They can become leaders in their community and spread awareness.” You and I can help the destruction of child marriages together. There are many great organizations that help eradicate child marriage such as UNFPA, UNICEF, Breakthrough, and more. A simple search for organizations and donating to them can help a ton. You can donate, volunteer, and spread awareness. EMPOW3R is an organization that helps educate underprivileged orphan girls and saves them from a life filled with potential abuse. Together, we can save the lives of innocent children.
By: Yatri Patel
Revised by: Rayyan Ahmed
https://iwhc.org/resources/facts-child-marriage/ https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-15082550 https://www.unicef.org/india/what-we-do/end-child-marriage https://www.unfpa.org/child-marriage-frequently-asked-questions#:~:text=In%20circumstances %20where%20parents%20are,at%20risk%20of%20sexual%20violence.