Child marriage

In India, child marriage has been practiced since ancient times where young children and teenagers are married off much before their physical and mental maturity. There are many reasons why some parents consent to child marriage and some of the reasons could be economic necessity, male protection for their daughters, child bearing, or oppressive traditional values and norms. According to UNICEF, child marriage 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.

In India, under The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 - a child has been defined as “a person who, if a male, has not completed twenty-one years of age, and if a female, has not completed eighteen years of age.” This act also declares that any marriage solemnised between children below the legal age limit is null and void. The act also provides punishments for various offences for allowing or conducting child marriages between minors or marrying minors with adults. Despite this, child marriage is still widespread across the nation. States like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh still have average age of marriage below the legal age of eighteen for females. States where child marriage is most prevalent are also those who have high population. Child marriage in India has grave implications for population control as adolescent brides are likely to have high fertility and a number of unwanted pregnancies.

Read More - Handbook on the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act

Case Study

Timely intervention by CHILDLINE team managed to cancel the child marriage

CHILDLINE team received a call from a 16 years old girl from Mandya district in Karnataka informing that her family was marrying her off against her wishes. The girl was not willing to get married, so as a final hope to get out of marriage, she called CHILDLINE India Foundation 1098. After receiving information about the case, the CHILDLINE team visited the girl’s home along with the DCPU staff and the police. The team made her family aware about the adverse consequences of child marriage on the child’s mental and physical health and also about the law that it is illegal to marry a girl before 18 years of age. After a lot of discussion with the parents, they finally agreed to cancel the marriage at the moment. Later the CHILDLINE team presented the girl and her parents to Child Welfare Committee (CWC) with the case details and a written statement was taken from parents stating that they will not marry off their girl child until she reaches the age of marriage. But the child was not willing to stay with her parents, so she was provided shelter at government girls home. Timely intervention by CHILDLINE team managed to cancel the child marriage with the help of Police, DPCU and CWC.

(*Name and details changed to protect the child)