Girls (or boys married under the age of 18). It is assumed it is without their consent as many will not understand the implications. It is illegal in many countries but as it is often socio-culturally entrenched, legislation is not enough to stop it from taking place. India acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1993, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.
India is home to the largest number of child brides in the world; 223 million, a third of the global total. It is illegal for girls under 18 years to be married, but still approximately 1.5 million girls are married each year before the age of eighteen. Nearly 16% of all adolescent girls aged 15-19 years are currently married. However, the numbers have been declining over the last decade, with child marriage decreasing from 47% to 27%.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reversed some of this progress. For example, as girls found themselves out of education as schools were closed for many months, struggling families have resorted to marrying off their daughters for money.
Early pregnancy means girls’ bodies are not ready for childbirth. Girls are more vulnerable to Sexually Transmitted Infections including HIV. Early pregnancy also cuts schooling short – correlation between girls who stay in school longer and prevention of Early and Forced Marriage.
SOURCE: Plan International – https://plan-international.org/sexual-health/child-early-forced-marriage
Keeping girls in school reduces the likelihood of underage marriage for obvious reasons. Action Village India’s partner, Nav Bharat Jagriti Kendra (NBJK) is tirelessly working to encourage families to continue to support their daughters’ education after completing grade 10.
EquiDiversity Foundation is also working with girls in schools to build leadership skills and awareness of rights and support girls’ empowerment.
Association for Sarva Seva Farms –ASSEFA’s ‘My Calf, My Life’ initiative in Natham, Dindigul Block, Tamil Nadu supports girls aged between 10 and 15 from marginalised communities with a heifer calf. The income from the sale of milk, as well as the asset of these animals, can provide economic security to the girls.
Girls' Education Project EquiDiversity Foundation ASSEFA