Ekam supports women, children and infants in India
Child Marriage in India
by Christina Blanchard-Horan, PhD
Child marriage, is defined as entering into a marriage before the age of 18. This practice remains prevalent worldwide with more than 700 million women currently affected. Regions practicing child marriage at the highest rates include South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Women in poorer and more rural regions are much more likely to participate in the practice of child marriage. Within these regions, India, in particular, is a country that continues this practice at an alarming rate. India alone is home to one-third of all women who have engaged in a child marriage practice.
Adolescent Marriages & Negative Consequences
For girls who are married in adolescence, multiple negative consequences result. Child marriages have a negative impact their social, health, and financial aspects. Socially, these adolescents often face social isolation. These women receive less education and fewer opportunities for employment. Their health is also impacted since these girls frequently do not have the ability to have safe sexual practices. They are more vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections such as HIV. They also tend to have a lot more children.2
When they become pregnant, additional risks emerge as they are both less likely to receive appropriate prenatal care and give birth in a health facility than their counterparts who married in adulthood. 2
Recent Decline in Child Brides
Over the past 25 years, there has been a decline in the number of adolescents who become child brides.2 In order to maintain and further this decline, it is important to intervene with girls when they are young. Especially those in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia where the practice remains more prevalent. It is necessary to support these young women in developing stronger personal agency and empowering them to avoid becoming a child bride and experiencing a host of consequences associated with that status.
Disadvantages of Child Marriages
The three key areas that are adversely affected by child marriage include:
- Social status
- Economic assets
One in three marriages in India are child marriages. Because of this, two of the affected regions in India were selected for this project: Rajasthan (Udaipur district; Kherwada and Salumber blocks) and Odisha (Gajapati district; Gumma block).
Some initiatives are focused on intervening with adolescent girls in these geographic areas to empower girls with information such as:
- Support networks
- Educate and mobilize parents
- Caregivers and community members
GHL welcomes opportunities to strengthen programs that help adolescent girls increase their personal agency to make choices related to their health, social environment, and financial circumstances.
At the societal level, we believe in programs that strive to empower a community to shift culturally, moving away from the practice of child marriage with an overall focus on both the individual and community level interventions.
UNICEF (2016, August 29). Child protection from violence, exploitation, and abuse. Retrieved fromhttps://www.unicef.org/protection/57929_58008.html
United Nations Children’s Fund. (2014) Ending child marriage: Progress and prospects. UNICEF, New York. Retrieved fromhttps://www.unicef.org/media/files/Child_Marriage_Report_7_17_LR..pdf