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To be defined at length in a later section, child marriage is most simply, for our
purposes, a marriage in which the wife is below the age of eighteen at the time of
consummation. The practice of child marriage in rural India is deeply rooted in cultural
values and grounded in social structures. And despite laws that prohibit child marriage,
the practice is still extremely prevalent in many regions. Though the statistics are
contentious, it is estimated that in some parts of India, like the state of Rajasthan, nearly
80 percent of the marriages are among girls under the age of fifteen” (Gupta, 2005, p. 2).
In India overall, roughly 47.6 percent of girls are married by the age of eighteen (The
implications of early marriage, 2004).
Despite international human rights efforts, the eradication of child marriage is
greatly hindered by the intertwined social issues that often lead to and are then in turn
reinforced by the practice. Various underlying social factors inform why child marriage
exists, including: traditional gender norms; the value of virginity and parental concerns
surrounding premarital sex; pressure of marriage transactions (or dowries); and poverty
(Amin, Chong, & Haberland, 2007). The social outcomes of child marriage are also
significant, and often devastate communities in which these practices take place.
Societies in which child marriage takes place have higher rates of early childbearing,
unwanted pregnancies, maternal and infant mortality, sexually transmitted diseases
(including HIV/AIDS) and unsafe abortions. Additionally, adolescent girls placed in
child marriages are often deprived of basic health care and health information, and
achieve extremely low educational attainment (Mathur, Greene, & Malhotra, 2003, p. 4-
11; Bruce, 2007; Amin, Chong, & Haberland, 2007). Apart from these... [continues]
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