Child Marriage in India

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Child marriage in India
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Small child brides in India

Child marriage is a common practice in many countries around the world, however it is especially prevalent in India, where more than one third of all child brides live.[1] According to UNICEF, 47% of girls are married by 18 years of age, and 18% are married by 15 years of age.[2] These marriages are often performed without the consent of the girls involved in the marriage. Indian law has made child marriage illegal, but it is still widely practiced across the nation. The highest rates are seen particularly in the rural states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.[3] It affects both boys and girls, but statistics show that girls are far more likely to be forced into a child marriage than boys; however the percentage of girls forced into child marriage in India has declined in recent years. Many consider child marriage to be a human rights violation, resulting in death, health problems, poverty, violence, and lack of education. Contents

Definitions of child marriage

UNICEF defines child marriage as a formal marriage or union before 18 years of age.[4] UN Women defines child marriage as a forced marriage before 18 years of age because they believe children under age 18 are incapable of giving their consent.[5] History of child marriage

Political turmoil

Child marriage, also known as Bal Vivaha, is believed to have begun during the medieval ages of India. At this time, the political atmosphere was turbulent and ruled by Delhi Sultans in an absolute monarchy government. The sultans had an extreme commitment to their religion and forced many to convert, causing socio-cultural unrest, and Hindu women suffered the most. These days of the Delhi Sultans produced practices such as child marriage and lowered the status of women even further. They invented the ill omen of giving birth to a female baby and believed that young unmarried girls caused disaster. Child marriage became a widespread cultural practice with various reasons to justify it, and many marriages were performed while the girl was still an infant.[6] Military alliances

Indian feudalistic society became present, where characteristics such as honor, rivalry, and animosity were important qualities to possess, and because of this, families and kingdoms created strong military alliances to preserve or destroy power between them. To ensure the alliance was upheld by both sides, each family exchanged a young member of their household who was reared and educated at the other family's estate. The children were the assurance that the alliance between the families was honored, but in case it wasn't enough, the families made a marriage arrangement to deepen the alliance even further. They believed the marriage wouldn't work if they waited for the young children to grow up because they could possibly pick someone outside of the alliance. If they performed the marriage while the children were still young and susceptible to their parents' influence, the children would have no choice but to marry who their parents chose to strengthen the alliance.[7] The caste system

The caste system is also believed to have contributed to the growth of child marriage. Castes, which are based on birth and heredity, do not allow two people to marry if they are from different castes. This system was threatened by young people's emotions and desires to marry outside their caste, so out of necessity, child marriage was created to ensure the caste system continued.[8] Laws against child marriage

The Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929

The Child Marriage Restraint Act, also called the Sarda Act,[9] was a law to restrict the practice of child marriage. It was enacted on April 1, 1930, extended across the whole nation, with the exceptions of the states of Jammu and Kashmir, and applied to every Indian citizen. Its goal was to...
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