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Report No. 205

Chapter III

The Scope, Causes and Consequences of Child Marriages

Child marriages continue to be a fairly widespread social evil in India. In a study carried out between the years 1998 to 1999 on women aged 15-19 it was found that 33.8% were currently married or in a union.1 In 2000 the UN Population Division recorded that 9.5% of boys and 35.7 % of girls aged between 15-19 were married. 2This showed that child marriage was far more prevalent amongst girls and this highlighted the gender dimension of the problem.

The National Family Health Survey of 2005- 2006 (NFHS-3) carried out in twenty-nine states confirmed that 45% of women currently aged 20-24 years were married before the age of eighteen years. The percentage was much higher in rural areas (58.5%) than in urban areas (27.9%) and exceeded 50% in eight states.3 The percentage of women aged 20-24, married by the time they are 18, stood at 61.2% in Jharkhand followed by 60.3 % in Bihar, 57.1% in Rajasthan, 54.7% in AP, and 53% in MP, UP and West Bengal.

The NFHS-3 findings further revealed that 16% of women aged 15-19 were already mothers or pregnant at the time of the survey. It was also found that more than half of Indian women were married before the legal minimum age of 18 compared to 16% of men aged 20-49 who were married by age 18. Though NFHS-3 did not compile date of girls who were married below the age of 15, the 2001 Census of India4 had revealed that 3,00,000 girls under 15 had given birth to at leas one child.

Further in a survey conducted by the Government of Rajasthan in 1993 it was found that 56% girls has been forced into marriage before the age of 15 and of these 7% were married before they were 105. A second survey conducted in 1998 in the State of MP found that 14% girls were married between that ages of 10 and 146. In state like Rajasthan, mass marriages of very young children take place on occasions like that Akha Teej.

The NFHS-3 findings show a slight rise in the median age of marriage for women aged 20-49 from 16.76 in NFHS-2 to 17.2. However this data does not reveal how many marriages are taking place even below the age of 15. Furthermore, with about 315 million people in India being in the age group of 10-24 years (RGI 2001)7 and 44.5 % of women aged 20-24 still getting married by the time they are 18, and 29.3% of men aged 25-29 getting married by the time they are 21, the improvement seems trivial.

Proposal to amend the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 and other allied Laws Back

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