At an age of 15 years, when most girls can’t even take good care of themselves, over 4.5 lakh of them in India, including over 26,000 in MP, had already become mothers, recently released Census figures show.
Similarly, 2.4 lakh girls in Madhya Pradesh and 38 lakh in India had become mothers by the time they were 19 years of age.
Childbirth at such a young age makes both the mothers — the girls in this case —and the children prone to serious health complications that often result in deaths, experts feel.
This is also reflected in the higher maternal and infant mortality figures in the state and in the country. Early motherhood takes away normal life opportunities from young girls, experts say.
The Census data on married women and the age of childbearing reflect many other shocking aspects. For example, mothers of over 3.9 lakh children in MP were under 19 years of age.
At the national level, about 60.18 lakh kids were born to such young mothers. The data pertain to Census of 2011, but were released only recently by the office of the Census Commissioner of India.
An analysis of the data by local non-governmental organisation Vikas Samvad shows that in MP, 19,697 girls had become mothers of two children before they turned 15 years of age and 35,854 had given birth to three children by time they were 19.
The situation is worse in states like Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal where 5.77 lakh and 5.31 lakh girls had become mothers before they were 19 respectively.
Figures of such early motherhood are also quite high in states like Bihar (3.76 lakh), Maharashtra (3.35 lakh) and Rajasthan (2.44 lakh), the analysis shows.
Sachin Jain of Vikas Samvad said the figures were a clear reflection of the society’s patriarchal attitude towards childbearing.
The child protection mechanism is so poor that it puts a multifold burden on girls and makes them risk their lives, the NGO has observed.
“It is time that life skills or family education becomes an integral part of our system and the mindset of the society changes. Legal interventions by the government alone won’t help,” he said.
Activist Kumud Singh said: “Girls are the biggest victims in such conditions as they not only lose education and career opportunities but face long-running health consequences and even the prospect of losing a life. The risk to children born to them is also extremely high.”
State women and child development minister Maya Singh accepted that it was a societal trend that had to be managed.
She said the government had devised a multi-pronged approach to the issue and was trying to prevent underage marriages and provide counseling, health and nutritional support to adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women through various programmes.
“We try to counsel the girls as well as the family to emphasise the importance of marriage and childbirth at the right age,” she added.
At a tender age.....
Mothers by 15 years of age MP India
Total mothers 26,190 4.57 lakh
Total kids born to them 45,887 7.78 lakh
Mothers between 15 & 19 years of age MP India
Total mothers 2.13 lakh 33.5 lakh
Total kids born to them 3.43 lakh 52.4 lakh
(Source: Census of India report of 2011, released in May 2015)