Poverty pushed the tendency of young women to get married early, resulting to increased cases of abuses among child brides
India outlawed the tradition of child marriages in 1978, raising the legal age for marriage to 18. Sadly, though, this has done little to protect the many innocent children of Rajasthan. Each year, millions of young Indian girls are married, some no older than 4 or 5 years old. Illegal ceremonies take place after dark in a bid to evade the authorities. Alarmingly, some radicals are now looking to lower the legal age for child brides, putting even more children at risk.
Many rural parts of India live in poverty. Female discrimination means that women and young girls do not play an equal role within their communities. Girls born to poor families are seen as a burden. When a girl is married in India the parents are expected to pay a dowry. Marrying their children at a young age limits these financial pressures. In many cases the family will lie about the age of the child in order to get them married sooner. Religious practice sees girls pushed into marriage at an early age in a bid to “protect their honour”. Marrying early, they also say, protects against the risk of a young girl losing her virginity before she marries.
It is not always the case that children who are married at a young age stay with their own families until they are older. At an age when they should be enjoying their childhood, young married children face a challenging new life. Education opportunities are greatly reduced and sometimes there are even greater consequences. Some are raped, some beaten and others live in a constant fear.
Across the world, 10 million girls are married each year before they reach the age of 18. While India is one of the most affected areas, child marriage continues in Africa and the Middle East. The ongoing effects of these young marriages are vast. Many of these women will be expected to have large numbers of children, risking their lives in pregnancy and childbirth. Others will have multiple abortions due to unwanted girl fetuses. In India girls cause financial issues and a recent census stated that up to eight million fetuses may have been aborted in the past decade alone. HIV is also an ongoing problem due to rape and a lack of education.
There are many consequences of child marriage and equally forced marriage. Governments are working hard to eradicate forced marriage, which sees many women suffering due to abuse and a lack of education. While many countries have outlawed forced marriage, in many countries the law is not actively enforced.
Initiatives are being set up to protect vulnerable women and girls. By enforcing the law more women can be protected. Empowering women through education will raise awareness about a woman’s right to choose and give women the strength to resist forced marriage. Plan UK is urging the UK government to take action. Visit Plan UK and find out more about their fight to stop child brides.