"South Asia is home to almost half (42 per cent) of all child brides worldwide; India alone accounts for one third of the global total," the report said.
  • Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 05:30

The News Minute | July 22, 2014 | 11:37 AM IST 

India is the country with the sixth highest prevalence of child marriage in the world. A report published by the United Nations says that one in one in every three child brides is from India. 

The report says that child marriage among girls is very common in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. In a report titled " Ending Child Marriage- Progress and Prospects", it says that India is one among the top 10 countries and India is among the top 10 countries with the highest rates of child marriage, UNICEF said in a reporttitled "Ending Child Marriage - Progress and prospects."

"South Asia is home to almost half (42 per cent) of all child brides worldwide; India alone accounts for one third of the global total," the report said.

Today, more than 700 million women around the world were married off as a child, before they reached the age of 18. One in three, i.e. around 250 million entered into a marriage union before they reached the age of 15. 

The list of the top 10 countries in which child marriages are rampant goes like this - Niger, Bangladesh, Chad, Mali, Central African Republic, India, Guinea, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Nepal respectively. In India, about 27 per cent of women aged 20 to 49 years were married before age 15.

About 31 per cent of women in that age group were married after age 15 but before they turned 18. The report added that in India, the median age at first marriage is 19.  7 years for women in the richest quintile compared to 15.4 for the poorest women.

In the Dominican Republic and in India, the wealthiest women marry about four years later than the poorest women.

UNICEF said that Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage are the two practices that affect millions of girls around the world. It said while the prevalence has decreased slightly over the past few decades, the progress needs to be more to offset population growth in the countries where the practices are most common.

"Female genital mutilation and child marriage profoundly and permanently harm girls, denying them their right to make their own decisions and to reach their full potential", the report said. 

"They are detriments to the girls themselves, their families, and their societies," UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said. "Girls are not property; they have the right to determine their destiny. Whenthey do so, everyone benefits."

According to the newly-released data, child marriage is widespread and can lead to a lifetime of disadvantage and deprivation. "Girls who marry before they turn 18 are less likely to remain in school and more likely to experience domestic violence.

Young teenage girls are more likely to die due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth than women in their 20s; their children are more likely to be stillborn or have higher chances of being weak according to the report.

The report further added that more than 130 million girls and women have experienced some form of FGM in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where the harmful practice is most common.

Apart from the physical and psychological pain, girls who undergo genital mutilation are also at a higher risk of facing prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility and death.

Kenya and Tanzania saw the rates of genital mutilation drop to one-third of what it was once. In the Central African Republic,Iraq, Liberia and Nigeria, prevalence has dropped by half.  "Attitudes are also changing: recent data show that the majority of people in the countries where FGM is practiced believe it should end, but continue to compel their daughters to undergothe procedure because of strong social pressure," it said.

The report said if the rates of decline seen in the past three decades continue, it would mean that the number of women married as children (more than 700 million) will remain the same throughout 2050. We must accelerate our efforts, that is the need of the hour, the report tells us. 

The report ends by stating that though the problem is an international one, the solution to the problem should come from the local level. 

With agency inputs