On world stage, India lets down its child brides
Kounteya Sinha, TNN
(India has refused to sign…)
LONDON: India, the world's child marriage capital, has once again failed its under-age brides.
The country has refused to sign the first-ever global resolution on early and forced marriage of children led by the UN.
The resolution was supported by a cross-regional group of over 107 countries, including almost all countries with high rates of child marriage—Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Chad, Guatemala, Honduras and Yemen.
The resolution floated by the UN Human Rights Council stressed the need to include child, early and forced marriage in post-2015 international development agenda and acknowledged the multi-faceted impact of early marriage on the "economic, legal, health and social status of women and girls" as well as "the development of the community as a whole".
India has the record of having the highest absolute number of child brides: about 24 million. This represents 40% of the 60 million world's child marriages.
The percentage of women between the ages of 20 and 24 who were married before 18 years of age has decreased from 54% in 1992-93 to 43% in 2007-08, thus showing a reduction of 11% in 15 years. This improvement however is far too little, experts say.
Lakshmi Sundaram, the global coordinator of Girls Not Brides who was at the UN general assembly last week told TOI: "India refusing to sign the resolution is highly disappointing. Though India is putting in place a national plan to combat child marriages, it was strange why it did not stand up against the social ill in the international stage. India would have given out a positive signal that it is willing to find a solution by signing the resolution".
Sundaram added: "Child marriage is a social ill across south Asian countries. However, Nepal probably is the only country that signed the resolution. Both India and Bangladesh which have high rates of child marriages didn't sign in. It a setback globally to the cause that India didn't speak out".
The Centre for Reproductive Rights says governments in the South Asia region have failed to enact and enforce adequate laws that prohibit child marriage.
"The practice persists with impunity. In South Asia, 46% of women between ages 20-24 report having been married before age 18 in 2010. This translated to 24.4 million women in the region. Estimates project that from 2010 to 2030, 130 million more girls in the region will be married."
"Child marriage does not constitute a single rights violation - rather, every instance of child marriage triggers a continuum of violations that continues throughout a girl's life. Child marriage endangers the survival and well-being of women and girls by exposing them to forced initiation into sex and sexual violence as well as to early, unplanned and frequent pregnancies. Further, women and girls married as children are often denied educational opportunities, are isolated from society and face a lifetime of economic dependence," the Centre said.
India introduced laws against child marriage in 1929, and set 12 years as the legal age for marriage. Later, it was increased to 18 years in 1978.