Poverty, lack of access to quality education and security are leading factors that contribute to the rise of child marriages in India. Poverty is one of the main causes of child marriage. Families live in abject poverty in India as a result of unemployment, low pay and a rise in rental prices. Dowry received from the husband or the family of the groom provides financial stability. There exists a misconception that child marriage provides a sense of security. Lack of access to quality education is another root cause for child marriage. Most families in India cannot afford school fees and, as a result, pursue marriage as a solution to their financial troubles.
Lack of Quality Education
Girls stop attending classes to give birth and take care of their husbands. Husbands expect wives to stay at home, prepare meals for them and clean house. These girls miss out on potential opportunities for career growth and personal development. Rural schools in India are inadequately equipped, offering education through to fifth grade only. There are no private bathrooms in school buses for young girls to attend to their hygienic needs.
Young girls are expected to be sexual with their adult partners while their bodies are in the process of development. The sexual act in these cases is unnatural and has dire consequences. Some girls have reportedly died on their wedding night. Girls have less bargaining power and are more susceptible to physical and mental abuse as a result of the misconception that husbands are justified in beating their wives. Kicking the girl out onto the street is used as a manipulative tactic in most cases often resulting in rape and torture.
Divorce is generally considered taboo in the Indian culture. Most traditional Indian people, particularly those from older generations are firm believers in “till death do us part,” regardless of whether or not the husband is an abuser or paedophile. In India marriage is considered a sacred communion even between an 11-year-old girl and 60-something-year-old man. In light of troubling financial times, anything goes even if that means accepting dowry from an older man. Children as young as 16 years of age are forced to divorce and, as a result, are ostracized by their relatives and communities. Child marriage in India is informally and unlawfully conducted despite legislative practices yet remains prevalent in modern society.
“I am one of those unfortunate Hindu women whose hard lot is to suffer the unnameable miseries entailed by the custom of early marriage. This wicked practice of child marriage has destroyed the happiness of my life. It comes between me and the thing which I prize above all others – study and mental cultivation. Without the least fault of mine I am doomed to seclusion; every aspiration of mine to rise above my ignorant sisters is looked upon with suspicion and is interpreted in the most uncharitable manner.”- Rukhambai’s letter to the Times of India dated 26 June 1885.
“I felt completely helpless. I was just a child! I knew nothing of the duties as a mother, how would I do this? What if I did not love my child enough?”-16-year-old Sadia from Bangladesh who was married at 14 years of age and fell pregnant before her 15th birthday.
Picture: Child bride Sadia holding her baby.
Stop Child Marriage
Access to quality education, vocational courses and community outreach projects to raise awareness are all factors that help put a stop to child marriage. Parents of child brides need to be made aware of the serious consequences of child marriage. Girls should be encouraged to continue with their education to strive for independence. The provision of vocational courses helps girls provide for themselves financially by utilizing newly developed skills. Raising awareness puts an end to the unlawful practice of child marriage.
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