A child is a beautiful creation of god and childhood is a precious gift given by God to a child. Child marriage is a marriage of a girl and boy before the particular age decides and associated by law. The associated age by law for marriage is 18 for girls and 21 for boys. Child marriage was started in the ancient period and now it is a big issue of every society and children. Child marriage ruins the childhood of a boy and a girl. Marriage is the union between two persons and creates marital obligations and responsibilities over the couple.
Child marriage is defined as marriage between girls and boys below the age of 18 and 21 years respectively. It creates marital rights and obligations between child couples. Child marriage is a common topic in any country. This is a widespread and silent practice. Over 60 million marriages include girls under the age of 18 years. Approximately 31 million marriages in South Africa, 6.6 million marriages in Latin America, and the Caribbean perform till now.
Many people thinking that child marriage referred to as “early marriage” or “child brides”. These terms are different from each other. Early marriage does not mean it includes child marriage, it means that early marriage for one society may be considered as late by another society and, Child brides mean a very young bride coerced or pressured to perform a wedding ceremony with a much older man in a conservative culture. Most of the child marriages are arranged by parents. The reason behind this marriage is poverty, dowry, reinforce social ties, belief that it provides protection to the girl, etc. Child marriage prevails in society since the ancient period.
HEALTH CONSEQUENCES IN CHILD MARRIAGE
Child marriage also affects the health of the girl and boy. Child marriage has only demerits. There are so many problems that seem related to health in child marriage.
ISOLATION AND DEPRESSION:
After the marriage, girls are taken to their husband’s house. As we know, marriage creates a marital obligation. We supposed to do a girl as a wife, a domestic worker, and as the mother. Because of the dowry, the husband is much older than a wife and the new brides are supposed to reproduce. This creates heavy or burden of responsibilities on both of them which leads to depression. Because at a small age, they require to fulfil many obligations and responsibilities and they lose their childhood.
CHANCES OF SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASE AND CERVICAL CANCER:
Most of the parents believed that child marriage or earlier marriage protects their daughter from HIV/AIDS. Research has shown that there is a high-risk factor at the age of 20 for HIV infection in girls. During the wedlock, their husbands also get infected with HIV/AIDS because of fertility. This was seen to happen in high frequency because of unprotected sexual intercourse.
RISK AT THE TIME OF PREGNANCY, LABOR, AND DELIVERY:
Deliveries and pregnancy in child marriage are “too soon, too close, too many, or too late.” The girls between the ages of 10 to 15 years have small pelvises and not ready for childbearing and the risk for an obstetric fistula is 88%.
RISKS FOR INFANTS:
Girls under the age of 18 years that become mothers have more chances to give birth to low weight infants. The infant mortality rate is 60% higher under the age of 18 years mother because of poor nutrition, physical and emotional immaturity, lack of social and reproductive service, and lack of education.
PREVENTION AND LEGAL ASPECT OF CHILD MARRIAGE
On 17th November 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on 11th October at the first International Girl Child chosen end of child marriages as a theme. Child marriage violates many rights of the children especially fundamental rights. Poverty is the main cause of child marriage. WHO in 2011 published or directed guidelines to “prevent child marriage”.
- Prohibit child marriage: The policymakers enforce laws that prohibit marriage before the age of 18.
- Keep girls in school: This has a positive effect on child marriage, it increases education opportunities for girls and helps to prevent child marriage.
- Influence cultural norms that support early marriage: This helps change norms regarding early marriage.
To prevent the child marriage government takes initiative steps. The government helped victims by introducing different laws. They also took steps to make people aware of their rights and punished offenders. The government decided the age of girls and boys should be 18 and 21 respectively for marriage. And, they also discussed the extension of the age of girls for marriage. Legislation regarding the prevention of child marriage laws is: “The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (2006), The Child Marriage Restraint Act (1929), etc.”
Child marriage exploits both, boy’s and girl’s life, their childhood, education, and violates fundamental rights. But a girl always suffers more than males. As we know, there are so many cases where domestic violence, marital rape, and violence by their in-laws are reported. Poverty is the root cause of child marriage. In ancient times, it was not a crime but now in modern society, it is a crime and a punishable offence.
But, child marriage is a valid marriage neither void nor voidable. In my view, only education can prevent child marriage. It helps make one aware of their rights, opportunities, and demerits of child marriage. It is a slow poison that ruins life. This leads to depression which results in death or suicide. So, we as individuals have to take steps towards this crime, stop child marriage, and save the lives of many people.
Nishu Singh | JIMS, Greater Noida