“CHILD IS A CHILD NOT A BRIDE”
Mr. Duvvi Rajesh*
Childhood is an essential and powerful experience in each individual’s lifetime. It is the most vital and impressionable period of learning. It is a harsh reality that children are future hope and valuable asset as well as a liability for a nation. Both at the national level and international levels greater attention is being focused on well-being and welfare of children. The issue of child marriage has always been an alarming one. The curse of child marriage is still prevailing in the remote areas of nation. However, it has minimized with the passage of time; but still, it exits on a large scale in the remote areas.
Child marriage is a violation of child rights, and has a negative impact on physical growth, health mental and emotional development, and education opportunities. It also affects society as a whole since child marriage reinforces a cycle of poverty ad perpetuates gender discrimination, illiteracy and malnutrition as well as high infant and maternal mortality rates. There are many causes of child marriage in India and multiple barriers to its elimination. Child marriage affects almost all facets of reaching the millennium development goals. Child marriage can be seen across the country but it is far higher in rural than in urban areas.
Child marriage is more common among poorer households, with many families marrying off their daughters to reduce their daughters to reduce their perceived economic burden. Girls are often married off at a younger age because less dowry is expected for younger brides. The situation has become so pathetic that there is an immediate need to make people aware regarding child marriage and its consequences. Children should be made aware of their human rights and must be taught to refuse and speak up once such an incident is taking place or is about to take place.
Key words: Child Marriage, Young brides, Curse of child marriage.
The issue of child marriage has always been an alarming one. Though it has minimized with the passage of time, but still, it exists on a large scale in the remote areas. Child marriages have existed in India from the times of the Delhi Sultanate when the monarchy system was prevalent. It was also used as a weapon to protect girls from rapes and abduction by foreign rulers.
Children should be able to experience their childhood and be able to enjoy those worriless year not worry about anything. Living life is not all about growing up, it about living and enjoys it to help making yourself happy about what have accomplished and experience. A child should not have to choose between their childhood and their parent or a religion. Both girls and boys are affected by child marriage, but girls are affected in much larger numbers and with greater intensity. Child marriage is seen across the country but it is far higher in rural than in urban areas. Girls from poorer families, castes and tribes, and with lower education levels are more likely to marry at a younger age.
Meaning of child marriage:
Child marriage can be described as a formal marriage or an informal union entered into by an individual before attaining the prescribed eligible age, Children at this age are so immature to take such big decisions in life so, in a way; this is a form of a forced marriage. Several global organizations such as UNICEF have specified children under the age of 18 as minors. Child marriage in India has been practiced for centuries, with children married off before their physical and mental maturity. The problem of child marriage in India remains rooted in a complex matrix of religious traditions, social practices, economic factors and deeply rooted prejudices. Regardless of its roots, child marriage constitutes a gross violation of human rights, leaving physical, psychological and emotional scars for life. Sexual activity starts soon after marriage, and pregnancy and childbirth at an early age can lead to maternal as well as infant mortality. Moreover, women who marry younger are more likely to experience domestic violence within the home. Child marriage as a concept can be defined as the formal or an informal union between two individuals before attaining the age of eighteen years. This institution should be seen as an abuse of human rights since this is one form of a forced marriage. Many brides find themselves alone after getting married. There’s no work to be found in the small villages, so young men often seek their fortune across the giant country. Their wives move in with the in-laws and the newlyweds stay in touch via phone. As per the law in India, a child marriage is one in which the girls is below the age of twenty one years.
Various reasons for child marriage:
Child marriages often occurred throughout history and is still prevailing due to variety of reasons including:
- Political and financial reasons
- Lack of education
- Patriarchy and gender inequalities
- Inadequate implementation of the law
Poverty is cyclical and the best indicator if a child will end up in poverty is if her parents live in poverty. One common practice among families with girls living in poverty is child marriages. It has been found that poverty is the main driver of child marriage and traps girls and their families in a cycle of poverty (Poverty Girls). The practice of child marriage is more common in families who are already in poverty and perpetuates the cycle.
Technically, child marriage is illegal in India. A law passed in 1929, the government passed a law banning the practice, and it was updated again in 2006. Today, both women under 18 and men under 21 cannot legally get married. Parents or older spouses can be punished with up to two years in prison for coordinating or allowing arrangements that ignore these restrictions. Childhood is lost and the freedom to play and learn is also snatched in the process. Early marriages also carry with them excessive risk factors. There is a greater risk of contracting sexual diseases like HIV. Also, girls who marry early are less likely to be updated about pregnancy and related subjects. Infants born to such mothers are more likely to suffer from malnutrition, low birth weights. The legal age of marriage in India is 18 for women and 21 for men. Last year the Supreme Court ruled that sex with an underage wife constituted rape. Despite all the recent conversation about protecting our young girls following the horrific gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old in Kathua, certain influential politicians and lawmakers in Madhya Pradesh continue to condone and support such the pernicious of child marriage.
Laws to prevent Child Marriages in India:
The Indian Constitution provides for prohibitions against child marriage through various laws and enactments. The first law that was designed was the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929 which extended to the whole of India except to the whole of India except Jammu and Kashmir. This act defines the ages of an adult male and female. If there is a marriage taking place between a boy who is aged between eighteen to twenty one years and a girl below the age of eighteen years, it implies an imprisonment up to fifteen days alone with a fine of one thousand rupees. The act was again amended in the year 1940 to rise the ages of male and female children.
Another law that exists is the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. This Act addressed the flaws contained in the child Marriage Restraint Act. Thus, this act was meant to strictly prohibit the marriage rather than merely restricting it. Under this law, the children have the choice to declare their marriage as void up to two years of reaching adulthood.
Again, the laws are not without criticisms. A major obstacle in curbing the evils is that most of these marriages are carried out informally and thus remain unregistered. Most of the times, it become an uphill task to decipher the correct age of the children as they do not have birth certificates as proofs or even if they have, that happens to be a fraudulent one since it establishes the age inappropriately as an adult. There needs to be mechanisms much stronger than these laws in order to put a stop on child marriages. Immediate reporting to the police needs to done as and when one hears of child marriage taking place.
Apart from the measures taken by the government it is essential for colleges and other institutions like non-government organizations to make certain moves. It is advisable to approach such villages and districts and educate the parents about the ill-effects of child marriage. Though it is not easy to make them understand easily but you never know that which activity or step of yours can change their minds at any point of time. The path is tough but victory can be achieved if strict actions are taken. College students as a part of their college campaign can visit such villages and personally talk to the mothers of children explaining the ill-effects of child marriage in the lives of their children. It is easier to make a mother explain the problems her child would face because women are soft by nature. India is a developing nation and aims to become a developed nation in the near future, but can a developed nation have brides and grooms who have not yet attained adulthood. It is impossible for India to become a developed nation if child marriage is not abolished.
In recent years, child marriage has gained increasing prominence on international and national development agendas. The issue of child marriage has been heavily criticized in India because of its continued practice after appropriate legislation has been passed against it. Child marriage has always been a common practice in India and has continued to flourish because of deep rooted social and cultural customs, illiteracy, and poverty, inadequate education opportunities, inferior status of women in society, and poor law enforcement (Bhanderi). Even though child marriage is a violation of ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ and ‘Rights of a child,’ deemed by the United Nations, it is still a common practice globally, and specifically in India (The Universal Declaration).
Finally it can be concluded that access to better education for young girls, greater impetus on spreading awareness against the debilitating effects of child marriage by government agencies, and extensive work on the ground by local non-profits can be worked wonders.
 https://www.indiacelebrating.com/social-issues/child-marriage-in-india/ accessed on 11.08.2019
 http://www.preservearticles.com/physics/essay-on-child-marriage-in-india-700-words/30322 accessed on 26.07.2019
 A study on child marriage in India, centre for social research.
 Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929
 M.P.Jain, Constitution of India, Universal Publications
 Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006