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India accounts for 85m of 103m child marriages

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A bride and groom wearing traditional garlands, made of beads and cotton threads, on their foreheads, wait for their wedding to start during a mass marriage ceremony in Karachi © Akhtar Soomro / Reuters

India accounts for 85 million of the 103 million of the world’s child marriages.

According to a report released by the non-profit organisation ActionAid India in July, the Indians married under the age of 18.

The report titled “Eliminating Child Marriage in India: Progress and Prospects” mainly used data in the Census 2011 to analyse child marriage in the country.

Statistics show that nearly 150 child marriages happen every hour in India.

The number of child marriages exceeds the total population of the Philippines, the world’s 12th largest country in population.

The report said child brides accounted for 30.2 per cent of the total married female population in India.

Although 75 per cent of the total child marriages occurred in rural areas and seven states contributed to 70 per cent of the total number.

Poverty is not the only cause for the issue.

The prevalence of child marriages in India arises out of old traditions and customs.

Shabana Azmi, the Chairperson of ActionAid, India, said that patriarchy was at the root of child marriage, which needs to be tackled to eliminate child marriage.

In India, the patriarchal notion of marrying the girl as a virgin at a young age prevails and serves for the aim of protecting family honour.

Srinivas Goli, scholar and author of the report, said that “India needs to realise that child marriage is not just a human rights or gender issue. It is a huge demographic, health, education and economic issue.’’

“If we cannot eliminate child marriages, it will become a huge hindrance to India’s economic prospects in the form of unhealthy and unskilled workforce,” Goli said.

Elimination of child marriages could avoid 27,000 neonatal deaths, 55,000 infant deaths and 160,000 child deaths, according to the report.


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