India has the highest number of child brides in the world. 18% of girls in India are married by the age of 15, and 47% married by age 18.
In India, girls are seen as an economic burden. By marrying girls off at an earlier age, parents are able to reduce costs, as her husband will now gain the responsibility to provide for their daughter. A lot of families who live in poverty, or those living in rural areas with poor educational opportunities increases a girls’ vulnerability to child marriage, as she is supposedly left with no options but to become someone’s wife.
Besides money, marrying off girls early supposedly “controls a girl’s sexuality,” as it minimizes the chances of improper sexual conduct. By marrying girls off at the time of puberty, they have better hopes of learning proper (just relations with their husband) and not irresponsible sexual conduct (relations with more than one person).To Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India:
Around twenty-six million girls have been married off before the age of 18, which is the legal age for marriage for women according to the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act. The PCMA is supposed to establish punishments for those who do not abide to these rules, but this relies on families to report the act! This is quite unlikely as the idea for marrying off a young child is typically decided by their parents!
The Ministry of Women and Child Development created a National Action Plan to prevent child marriage in 2013, yet it was never finalized. Not only is India a member of the South Asian Initiative to End Violence Against Children, but it is also one of the 12 countries that has been selected to be a party of UNICEF’s Global Program to Acceleration Action to End Child Marriage.
So why are there all of these movements and organizations saying that they have a plan that will end child marriage, yet it is 2017 and there are still children being married off to older men at the age of just 13? It is clear that marrying before the age of 18 is illegal, but parents, a child’s gatekeeper, are reinforcing the act of marrying young! This is a huge problem and we must put a true end to child marriage by changing our target to parents, the gatekeeper. In this case, by implementing more serious consequences along with educating parents on how to deal with poverty, and the cons of allowing their child to marry at such a young age, we will be able to see a real change in numbers, and girls will finally be able to live as children, and not be forced into marrying at such a young age.
Let’s work together and change the future of these girls! They deserve to have a future of their choice!