Although child marriages in India have declined, a few states like Bihar, West Bengal and Rajasthan continue to carry on with the harmful practice and there is nearly 40 per cent prevalence in these states, the Unicef said.
A new report ‘Factsheet Child Marriages 2019’ released by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) late on Monday stated that while in Tamil Nadu and Kerala child marriage prevalence was below 20 per cent, they were pockets of disparity concentrated in tribal communities and amongst particular castes, including the Scheduled Castes.
Child marriage threatens girls’ lives, well-being and futures and if efforts were not accelerated, more than 150 million girls would be married off before their 18th birthday by 2030.
Improving rates of girl education, proactive government investments in adolescent girls, and strong public messages around the illegality of child marriage and the harm it causes were among the reasons for the shift, it pointed.
It also showed that the prevalence of girls getting married before 18 years of age in India has declined from 47 per cent in 2005-2006 to 27 per cent in 2015-2016.
“While the change is similar with all states showing a declining trend, the prevalence of child marriage continues to be high in some districts. The focus is on geographies that have high (50 per cent) and medium (between 20 per cent to 50 per cent) prevalence of child marriage,” it said in a statement.
The report revealed that worldwide, an estimated 650 million girls and women alive were married before their 18th birthday and globally, the total number of girls married in childhood is estimated at 12 million per year.
“South Asia is home to the largest number of child brides with more than 40 per cent of the global burden (285 million or 44 per cent of the global total), followed by sub-Saharan Africa (115 million or 18 per cent globaly),” it noted.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, there was no evidence of progress at all, with levels of child marriage as high as they were 25 years ago.
However, there is a silver lining as well, the report stated that the practice of child marriage has declined around the world.
In the past decade, the proportion of women who were married as children decreased by 15 per cent, from 1 in 4 (25 per cent) to approximately 1 in 5 (21 per cent), that’s around 25 million child marriages that have been prevented.
In South Asia, a girl’s risk of marrying in childhood has declined by more than a third, from nearly 50 per cent a decade ago to 30 per cent at present, largely driven by great strides in reducing the prevalence of child marriage in India.
The report mentioned that the global burden of child marriage is shifting from South Asia to Sub-Saharan Africa, due to both slower progress and a growing population. Of the most recently married child brides, close to 1 in 3 are now in sub-Saharan Africa, compared to 1 in 7, 25 years ago.