ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Socio-economic Correlates of Early Marriage of the Girl Child

Empirical Evidence from India

The study focuses on the early marriage of the girl child in India using the fifth round of the National Family Health Survey. There are only nine states where maximum cases of a woman being married off as a child are reported, with West Bengal and Bihar taking the lead. Using multivariate logistic regression, it is found that the cases of early marriage of the girl child are more prevalent among women having a lower level of education and belonging to the poorest wealth quintile.

The study focuses on the early marriage of the girl child in India using the fifth round of the National Family Health Survey. There are only nine states where maximum cases of a woman being married off as a child are reported, with West Bengal and Bihar taking the lead. Using multivariate logistic regression, it is found that the cases of early marriage of the girl child are more prevalent among women having a lower level of education and belonging to the poorest wealth quintile.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5 seeks to end all kinds of discrimination against women and girls, including child, early, and forced marriage. Thereby, it is important to address this issue in the present scenario so as to attain the set target. Early marriage synonymously referred to as child marriage as defined by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF 2020) is the formal or informal unison of an individual before the age of 18. This practice undoubtedly impacts both sexes, but girls are more likely to face the negative repercussions of early marriage (Lebni et al 2020). Recognising that the burden of early marriage falls disproportionately on girls, the United Nations Population Fund defines child marriage as any union formed prior to the girl being physically, biologically, and psychologically prepared to handle the responsibilities of marriage and parenthood, which is often before the girl is 18 years old (Kyari and Ayodele 2014). It is reported that every year close to 12 million girls are married before attaining the age of 18 years (Paul et al 2019). To provide further context, statistics show that one in three girls in developing nations marry before the age of 18 and one in five girls marry before the age of 15 (Efevbera et al 2020). Furthermore, it has been demonstrated in many instances that the young girl is likely to be married to a mature man who is more than twice her age (Kyari and Ayodele 2014). The motivation behind picking a prospective groom is not age but rather social, religious, and financial factors, according to a report on early childhood marriage, which outlines the justification of this practice (Adedokun et al 2012). This is supported by research findings documenting that spouses are typically 12 years older in monogamous unions, 15−20 years older in polygamous unions, and maybe several decades older in certain rare situations (Kyari and Ayodele 2014). However, in the past 30 years, there has been a decline in the practice of girl child marriage under the age of 15, but as indicated by a large number of child marriage cases under the age of 18, this practice is still common in South Asian countries (Raj et al 2018) as 30% of girls growing up in South Asia experience early marriage as compared with 25% in Latin America (UNICEF 2020). In the absence of any measures being taken, more than 150 million additional girls will have to become child brides by 2030 before they attain 18 years of age (UNICEF 2019).

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Updated On : 19th Dec, 2023
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