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Child marriage rampant in India, finds study

A study prepared by the Population Council of India reveals that one-fifth of the young women surveyed were married off before the age of 15.

A study prepared by the Population Council of India reveals that one-fifth of the young women surveyed were married off before the age of 15.   | Photo Credit: Bhagya Prakash_K

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Child marriage continues to be rampant in India with nearly one-fifth of Indian women being married off before turning 15 and around 50 per cent before reaching the legal marriageable age, a study has found.

The study, prepared by the Population Council of India and released by Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad here on Saturday, said rural women were four times more likely than urban young women to be married off before 15 years of age.

One-fifth of the young women surveyed were married off before the age of 15, half before they turned 18 and two-thirds before the age of 20, the survey conducted in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, found.

The study was conducted among young urban and rural populations in the six States between 2006 and 2008, and surveyed over 58,000 youth in the age group of 15-29 years.

While women from Tamil Nadu were least likely to be married off before 18, those from Bihar were most likely to be married off before reaching the legal marriageable age.

“Not only did marriage occur at young age but it was also often arranged without the participation of young people themselves, particularly young women,” the study said.

The study found that early marriage is followed by early pregnancy and almost 47 per cent of young women had their first pregnancy before they turned 18.

After the marriage came the pressure to prove fertility as soon as possible.

“Among married men and women who had cohabited for 12 months or more and for whom age at first pregnancy was known, two-thirds reported that the first pregnancy occurred within a year of marriage,” the study said.

It also found that one quarter of married young women reported some form of physical violence within marriage.

Mr. Azad said adolescent girls have unique healthcare needs and many of these become mothers before they are physically and mentally ready for this role.

“We need to set up exclusive forums for adolescent girls in villages to ensure that their multi-dimensional development needs are addressed,” he said after releasing the report.

Employability of youth

The study conducted under the aegis of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare also found that youth in India were not educated enough for employment as per the market demand, and not adequately equipped with vocational skills.

The study titled ‘Youth in India: Situation and Needs’ found that around 44-52 per cent of men and 36-48 per cent of women in Maharashtra and the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu had completed 10 or more years of education, compared to 30-38 per cent of men and 13-18 per cent of women from the other States.

It said that pre-marital sex was not unknown in both urban and rural areas, with 15 per cent of men and four per cent of women reporting having engaged in sex before marriage and rural young men at 17 per cent were more likely than their urban counterparts to have experienced pre-marital sex.

The study also found that detailed awareness of contraceptive methods was limited, particularly among sexually active young women.

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Printable version | Dec 11, 2019 12:19:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Child-marriage-rampant-in-India-finds-study/article16815839.ece

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