Photo credit: Graham Crouch | Girls Not Brides
Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)
India has the highest number of child brides in the world. It is estimated that 27% of girls in India are married before their 18th birthday.
The rates of child marriage vary between states and are as high as 69% and 65% in Bihar and Rajasthan.
Over the last decade, India has witnessed one of the largest declines in child marriage rates, from nearly 50% to 27%.
While fewer Indian girls are marrying before the age of 15, rates of marriage have increased for girls between ages 15 to 18.
In many communities girls are seen as an economic burden and marriage transfers the responsibility to her new husband. Poverty and marriage expenses such as dowry may lead a family to marry off their daughter at a young age to reduce these costs.
Patriarchy, class and caste influence the norms and expectations around the role of women and girls in India. In many communities restrictive norms limit girls to the role of daughter, wife and mother who are first seen as the property of her father and then of her husband.
Controlling girls and women’s sexuality is an influential factor in the practice of child marriage too. Pressure towards early marriage aims to minimise the dishonour associated with improper female sexual conduct, often leading to marriages arranged around the time of puberty.
Poor educational opportunities for girls, especially in rural areas, also increase girls’ vulnerability to child marriage.
Legal age of marriage
The legal age for marriage is 18 for women, 21 for men, according to the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) of 2006.
The PCMA establishes punishments for those who do not prevent child marriages and creates Child Marriage Prohibition Officers. It includes a right to annul marriage if underage, but this relies on families to report the act.
A National Action Plan to prevent child marriages was drafted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2013, however, it has not yet been finalised.
The Government has used cash incentives (such as the Dhan Laxmi scheme and the Apni beti apna dhun programme), adolescents’ empowerment programmes (Kishori Shakti Yojana) and awareness-raising to induce behaviour change.
Regional campaign to end child marriage
India is a member of the South Asian Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC), which adopted a regional action plan to end child marriage. The regional action plan is to be implemented in 2015 – 2018.
Global Programme to End Child Marriage
India is one of 12 countries selected to be part of UNFPA and UNICEF’s Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage.
Members In India
- Aangan Trust
- Alwar Mewat Institute
- Apne Aap Women Worldwide
- Asmita Resource Centre for Women
- Association for Social and Human Awareness (ASHA)
- Barasat Unnayan Prostuti
- Bhavishya Alliance
- Bihar Voluntary Health Association (BVHA)
- Bureau of Rural Economical & Agriculture Development (BREAD)
- Center for Education and Development Alternatives (CEDA Trust)
- Centre for Action Research and People’s Development (CARPED)
- Centre for Catalyzing Change
- Centre for Health and Social Justice
- Centre for the Development of Rural Women (CDRW)
- Centre for Unfolding Learning Potentials
- Centre for Women’s Development and Research
- Chanchal Jana Kalyan Samity
- Child In Need Institute (CINI)
- Child Survival India
- ChildFund International
- Educate Girls
- EKTA Resource Centre for Women
- Empower People
- Equal Community Foundation (ECF)
- FXB India Suraksha
- Grameen Vikas Shodh Avam Takniki Kendra (GVSTK)
- HAQ: Centre for Child Rights
- Health And Education Alternative Development Studies (HEALDS)
- Heaven Blue Foundation
- Human Rights Law Network
- Institute of Health Management, Pachod (IHMP)
- International Services Association – INSA
- Jabala Action Research Organisation
- JAGRITI Trust
- Jan Vikas Sansthan Tilonia (JVS Tilonia)
- Kalinga Kusum Foundation
- Leadership Through Education And Action Foundation Society (LEAF)
- Mahatma Phule Samaj Seva Mandal
- Mahila Jan Adhikar Samiti (MJAS)
- Mamidipudi Venkatarangaiya Foundation (MV Foundation)
- MAMTA Health Institute for Mother and Child
- MEERA Foundation – Mutual Education for Empowerment and Rural Action
- Milaan Foundation
- My name is Kumar Foundation
- NAELIN Trust
- Nav Bharat Jagriti Kendra
- Nav Chetna
- Navachar Sansthan
- Network for Enterprise Enhancement and Development Support (NEEDS)
- Network for Youth Development and Healthy Environment (NYDHEE)
- Network on Entrepreneurship & Economic Development (NEED)
- Pathfinder International
- Population Council
- Population Foundation of India
- Progressive Rural Active Youth’s Action for Society (PRAYAS)
- Rajsamand Jan Vikas Sansthan (RJVS)
- READ Global
- Rural Organization for Social Advancement (ROSA)
- Saarthi Trust
- SAFE society
- Sambhali Trust
- Sarathi Development Foundation
- Satyakam Jankalyan Samiti
- SEEDS Trust
- SHELTER FOR HER EMPOWERMENT (SHE)
- Shohratgarh Environmental Society (SES)
- Society for Sustainable Development
- Society for Women Education and Economic Thrust (SWEET)
- South Kolkata Hamari Muskan
- Sukna Dawn Society
- Tamil Nadu Depressed Women Welfare Society (TNDWWS)
- The Hunger Project
- The Red Elephant Foundation
- Thoughtshop Foundation
- URMUL Trust Rajasthan
- Vallal Trust
- Vasavya Mahila Mandali (VMM)
- Veerni Sansthan Project
- Vikalp Sansthan
- Vishakha Mahila Shiksha Avam Shoudh Samiti
- Voice 4 Girls
- Voluntary Association of Agricultural General Development Health and Reconstruction Alliance (VAAGDHARA)
- Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI)
- VSO International
- Welfare Organisation for Rural Development (Word Trust)
- Women Power Connect
- Your Hope is Remaining
- Youth for Social Development (YSD)
- YP Foundation
- UNICEF, Q&A: Child marriage global data, March 2018.
- UNICEF, The State of the World’s Children, 2016
- UNFPA country profile: India, 2012
- DHS 1998-1999; DHS 2005-2006
- National Family Health Survey (India) NFHS 2005-06
- UNICEF, The State of the World’s Children, 2015
- Nirantar and AJWS, Early and Child Marriage. A Landscape Analysis, 2015
- ICRW, Solutions to End Child Marriage: What the Evidence Shows, 2011