Girls are forced into marriage for want of access to education closer home, a study has found.
The study, conducted among women in the 19-25 age group in 10 districts by the Samakalvi Iyakkam, found that girls had to marry as higher secondary schools were located far, sometimes as much as 22 km away from their homes.
The child rights organisation took a sample of 210 girls, all dropouts and married before they turned 18, and found that 50% of them had dropped out after Class VIII and another 48% after classes IXand X.
Eighty per cent of the respondents were not aware of the legal age of marriage for girls, though they knew about some of the government initiatives such as anganwadi, the mother and child protection card and government scholarships.
At least 10 girls were married to men aged 35 years and 60% of the respondents’ husbands were aged between 26 and 30 at the time of marriage.
What shocked the activists was that as much as 17% of them lived in broken homes after marriage as they were either abandoned by their husbands or had left due to domestic violence. “The aim was to understand the impact of early marriage on the health of the women. We found that 30.5% of the girls had complicated deliveries leading to poor health. Nearly 75% of the respondents experienced frequent abortions,” said Chella Selvakumar, general secretary. Activists said the respondents wanted the legal age for marriage raised to 21 years. They recommend that the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, be suitably amended.
“We found that 89% of the respondents were interested in studying and 87% said they wouldn’t have married had there been a higher secondary school. There are 12,450 panchayats and each of them should have a higher secondary school,” said Christuraj, State coordinator.
“Instead of providing freebies, the government should focus on improving infrastructure in schools and build classrooms and toilets. Parents fear for their daughters’ safety and hence don’t send their daughters to schools,” Mr. Selvakumar said.