ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Will Child Marriages Ever End?

Child marriages are meant to "protect" girls, they ruin their lives instead.

India’s refusal to co-sponsor a United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution recognising child, early and forced marriage as a human rights violation has put the spotlight once again on the prevalence in the country of this terrible social practice. India did support the UNHRC resolution which was unanimously adopted, but the country was shown in a poor light when it refused to join more than a 100 countries in co-sponsoring the resolution.

The official reluctance to take the lead in an international forum comes at a time when, at home, the ever active and powerful khap panchayats are clamouring to lower the age of marriage to “protect” girl children and there are efforts by certain Muslim bodies in Kerala to exempt girls from the prohibition against child marriage – when the girl is under 18 or the boy under 21. The continuation of child marriage in India despite a social campaign against it that is nearly 200 years old reflects the complexity of the phenomenon. The underlying reasons – if indeed they can be called reasons – are many: poverty, the low or even no value accorded to female education and health, the worry about having to pay a larger dowry if the girl is in her 20s, the fear of social disapproval if a daughter is not married, and, most significantly, the desire to control female sexuality. What adds to this mix is the support that fundamentalists (of different religious hues) express for child marriage. While these certainly are humongous odds to battle against, successive Indian governments have hardly shown the will and commitment needed to end the practice.

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