UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis | End Child Marriage | 15 June 2022

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What the article is about?

  • Talks about the way to end child marriage and its correlation with increasing the age of marriage.

Syllabus: GS-I Society, GS-II Social Justice, Child marriage, Health impacts

Way to end Child marriage:

  • Several empirical studies from South Asia establish a significant association between early marriage and adverse health and educational outcomes of women and their children.
    • Studies associate early marriage of women with early pregnancy, lower likelihood of accessing ante-natal care, higher risks of maternal morbidity and mortality, poor nutritional status of women and poor nutritional and educational outcomes of children.
    • It is also abetted by structural factors, including social norms, poverty, and women’s education.
    • It is because of social norms in many regions and cultures that parents begin preparations for a girl’s marriage once she has reached menarche.
  • Equally, a large proportion of child marriages take place primarily because of poverty and the burden of the huge costs of dowry associated with delayed marriages.
  • NFHS-5 data show that about 25% of women aged 18-29 years married before the legal marriageable age of 18. The proportion has declined only marginally from NFHS-4 (28%). Expectedly, the prevalence is higher in rural than urban India (28% and 17%, respectively).
    • 39% of child marriages in India take place among Adivasis and Dalits. The share of advantaged social groups is 17% and the remaining share is of Other Backward Classes.
    • In terms of household wealth, 58% of these marriages take place among the poorest wealth groups (bottom 40%), about 40% of them take place among the middle 50% and only 2% of them take place among the top 10% of wealth groups. Only 4% of child marriages in India take place among women who have completed more than 12 years of education
  • Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, fixes 21 years as the marriageable age for women.
    • While 27% of illiterate women who married before 18 years are underweight (Body Mass Index be- low 18.5), the proportion is 24% for illiterate women who married at the age of 21 years. A high proportion (64%) of illiterate women are anaemic, in terms of iron deficiency, irrespective of their difference in age at marriage 

Way Forward:

  • The health dividend emanating from women’s increased age at marriage is not imminent.
  • Increasing the age of marriage without a commensurate improvement in women’s education is least likely to yield better health and nutritional outcomes. Instead, it might adversely impact the poor and illiterate.
  • The fact that about one-fourth of women (18-29 years) in India have married before 18 years despite the law tells us that legally increasing the age of marriage may not fully prevent child marriages.
  • By contrast, much of the benefits can be reaped by ensuring that women complete education at least up to 12 years.
  • The case of Bangladesh shows that improving women’s education and imparting modern skills to them that increase their employability reduces child marriage and improves health and nutrition.
  • Also, schemes which ease the financial burden of marriage but the eligibility criteria of which should essentially link to educational attainment in addition to age demand attention – Janani Suraksha Yojana 

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