Child Marriages in India

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Child Marriages

Child marriages were very common in ancient India. Although child marriages were

mostly common among the poor in India, some of the rich people also followed this

custom. The child marriage tradition was brought to India in the medieval age by the

Delhi Sultans who were ruling India at the time (Birodkar, n.d). Due to the major

problem of Muslim rebels roaming free in the streets of India, the custom of child

marriage was brought into the system to marry the girls off before they reach their

marriageable age ("A History of Child Marriage in Ancient India," n.d). This also

prevented and protected a girl from losing her virginity before she got married. Girls got

married before they started menses, but they lived with their birth parents for a while

after the marriage ("A History of Child Marriage in Ancient India," n.d). As soon as the

girls started menses, they would be sent over to their husbands' home. It was believed

that a father who allows his unmarried daughter, who has started menses to live in his

home, is responsible for the sin of abortion that takes place in his daughter's body every

month ("A History of Child Marriage in Ancient India," n.d).

The custom of child marriage could be started when the mother is pregnant with a child.

The parents could promise another set of parents that the baby inside the mother will

marry their child. Usually, young girls would get married to older boys or men. For

example, a 7 year old girl could be married to a 17 year old boy.

There were many positive advantages of child marriage. Parents could decide to whom

their children would be marrying. Usually, parents would marry their children to

individuals from the same caste as them (rich marry the rich, poor marry the poor). The parents would also marry their children into their friends' families because they know the

family very well and they also know that their friends' family would take good care of

their children.

However, there are some disadvantages of child marriage. There were several incidents

recorded where a wife was beaten and/or raped by her husband. The cause of this can

be because the husband is much bigger and stronger than the wife, who is younger and

more fragile than him. Because of the growing numbers in these incidents every year,

the government passed a law in 1927 which stated the minimum age allowed for a girl to

get married ("A History of Child Marriage in Ancient India," n.d). A girl is allowed, by

law, to get married only after when she is 12 years old ("A History of Child Marriage in

Ancient India," n.d). This law was more effective than the one that was passed in the late

1890s which banned sexual intercourse involving a girl who is younger than 10 years of


Then, a few years later, right after the independence of India in 1947, child marriage was

abolished and considered illegal. The minimum age allowed for marriage was now 18

years old for women and 21 years old for men (Burns, 1998).

Even after the passing and enforcing of these new laws, people in rural villages carried

out the custom of child marriage illegally, and still do (Burns, 1998). Since there is a

huge population in India and all of the marriages that take place in the country cannot be

documented and checked. Many of them go ungoverned and so therefore, people are able

to conduct child marriages and get away with it easily. Most of the illegal child marriages

happened and still happen in the state of Rajasthan in small rural villages (Burns, 1998). While most of the country has abolished the custom of child marriage, the remaining few

will take some time to adjust to the new system that has been put in place to replace child



A history of Child Marriage in India. Retrieved February 20, 2008, from...
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