Since time immemorial, child marriage has been one of the greatest evils plaguing India. Marriage is a sacred relationship between two individuals who are ready to accept each other. Child marriage is an abuse of such union and is not permitted by law in India. History has always proven child marriage detrimental for our society.
The recent statistics released by the Government of India on married Indian women show 31.3% Hindu women and 30.6% Muslim women marry before the age of 17.6% of all Hindu women married before turning 10.The corresponding figure for Muslim women was 5%. Only 6% of men were married before 18.
The legal age for marriage is 18 for women and 21 for men. Any marriage below the legal age is considered child marriage. One in three married women from Hindu and Muslim communities got married before their 18th birthday making them vulnerable to not just higher maternal mortality rates but also domestic violence. Studies show girls who give birth before turning 15 and the infants of child mothers are at greater risk. Underage marriages interrupt education and most child brides are unable to negotiate with their family members making them liable to domestic violence.
The 2001 census found 43% of women were married before 18 years of age. In 2011 the figure stood at 18%. The proportion of women married before 18 years between 2001 and 2011 was 20%.
India has been unable to enforce the law that was first enacted by the British in 1929.The Child Marriage Restraint Act fixed the age of marriage for girls at 14 and boys at 18 years. It was last raised to 18 years for girls in 2006.In 2014 police registered only 280 cases across the country under the 2006 Prohibition of Child Marriage Act. Of the 103 cases decided by courts the same year convictions were secured in only 15 or 14.6% cases.
Only laws and law enforcing agencies will not prove instrumental in reducing and eventually eradicating child-marriages. The mindset of the society has to be targeted in order to create a world free of such evils. Citizens will have to actively participate in spreading awareness regarding this practice and by abiding to the existing restrictions imposed by the government. Girl child has to be given equal opportunities and right education to safeguard themselves from such practices and rise in the society. The journey of gender equality will only be completed once practices like child marriages; female feticides violence against women are eradicated.
According to the report ‘Why Children Commit Offences’ published by Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) in June 2015 focused on children in conflict with the law in Delhi. The report looks at multiple issues like the socio-economic profile of children with a criminal record, the nature of offence that these children were accused of and analyzed the factors that push children towards deviant behavior. The report highlighted the role of the family, the community, the school and education as well the peer influence. The report after studying 182 children in observation homes, special homes found that poverty is one of the biggest contributing factor in children taken to crimes. Most of the children had undergone multiple deprivations with low economic households, uneducated parents; disrupted families. The children were dropouts and working independently to support their families.