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Rate of child marriage decline in India slow: CRY

School children during awareness campaign

Mumbai : Ahead of Mother’s Day tomorrow, NGO Child Rights and You (CRY) said India has the highest number of child brides and the rate of child marriages has declined just by 11 per cent in the last 15 years in the country.

CRY said recognising Mother’s Day is a welcome step but raised concern about the young girls who are experiencing motherhood due to coercion, trafficking and in economic and social deprivation.

“Our country today has the highest rate of child marriage with globally the highest number of child brides. Over 50 per cent of them are in Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal,” CRY said in a statement.

As per National Strategy Document on Prevention of Child Marriage compiled by Women and Child Development Ministry in 2013, in the last fifteen years, rate of child marriages in the country has declined just by 11 per cent, which means slower than 1 per cent every year, it said.

In Maharashtra, as per census report (2011), there were 2,12,993 married girls under 15 years of age, out of which 21 per cent have become mothers. Fifteen per cent of them have two children while 6 per cent have one child, it said.

In Mumbai, 20,988 girls were married before 15 years, of which 5,035 (24 per cent) have attained motherhood.

“Child marriage gives rise to anaemic and weak and underaged mothers who eventually end up giving birth to children who are malnourished,” CRY said.

The NGO further said various age-old socio-cultural, religious practices and beliefs were the reasons behind the social evil.

On the law enforcement front, it said, “Our very own law Protection of Children from Sexual Offences, Act 2012 does not recognise sexual autonomy in children in any form below 18 years of age, which is considered the official legal age for matrimony.”

“Interestingly, the Indian Penal Code contradicts the above Act especially where marital rape is considered. An IPC provision states ‘sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape’, which leaves one wondering how serious are our laws,” it said.

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