- Recently, some activists and organisations of Karnataka have raised the issue of increased child marriages in Lockdown with the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
- According to a report published in December 2020 by ChildLine India, the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown have proved to be new drivers of child marriages in rural Madhya Pradesh.
- It is defined as a marriage of a girl or boy before the age of 18 and refers to both formal marriages and informal unions in which children under the age of 18 live with a partner as if married.
- United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates suggest that each year, at least 1.5 million girls under 18 get married in India, which makes it home to the largest number of child brides in the world – accounting for a third of the global total.
- Recent study by The Lancet shows that up to 2.5 million more girls (below the age of 18) around the world are at risk of marriage in the next 5 years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Earlier, when child marriages happened at wedding halls, temples, etc, there were people who would alert the relevant authorities or activists who would be able to reach on time to stop it. But now, with marriages happening at homes, we may get fewer alerts and our going there could be treated as trespass.
- Economic pressures due to the pandemic have pushed poor parents to marry off girls early.
- With no schools, safety of children, particularly girls, was a major reason for increase in violence against children and child marriages.
- parents consider the age period of 15-18 as unproductive, especially for girls, so they start finding a match for their child during this age period.
- Underaged girls are more prone to child marriage than boys.
- Further, the Right To Education Act makes education free and compulsory up to the age of 14 only.
- Law and Order are still not able to provide a secure environment for the girls in adolescent age, so some parents get their girl child married at a young age.
- Political and financial reasons,
- Lack of education,
- Patriarchy and gender inequalities, etc.
Government Initiatives to Prevent Child Marriages:
- The Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929 restricts the practice of child marriage.
- The Special Marriage Act, 1954 and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 prescribe 18 and 21 years as the minimum age of consent for marriage for women and men respectively.
- The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 was enacted to address and fix the shortcomings of the Child Marriage Restraint Act.
- The Union Ministry for Women and Child Development has set up a committee to examine matters pertaining to age of motherhood, imperatives of lowering Maternal Mortality Ratio and the improvement of nutritional levels among women. The Committee is headed by Jaya Jaitely.
- The Committee was proposed in the Union Budget 2020-21.
- Prevention of Child Marriage is a part of SDG 5 which deals with gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls
- One way of keeping a check on child marriages during the pandemic would be to ensure that there is a strong cohort of child protection workers among essential health workers.
- India has a robust system of grassroots workers who have done commendable work in ensuring that health and other social security services reach people in these dire times.
- If such workers were incorporated into the system they could keep a check on girl children at risk of early marriage and take steps to avert these. This could be in the form of awareness counseling and helping some benefits reach the family concerned.
SOURCE: THE HINDU , THE ECONOMIC TIMES ,MINT