A large number of girls in Bihar are married before they turn 18, the minimum age prescribed by the law, posing a serious threat to their lives and that of their children.
In Bihar, the average age of a girl at marriage is 17.2 yrs, third after Rajasthan (16.6 yrs) and Madhya Pradesh (17 yrs), according to a recent report of the UNICEF.
While an alarming 80 per cent of girls get married below the age of 18 in West Champaran district, it is 73 per cent in Nawada, around 70 per cent in Kaimur and Rohtas and 66 per cent in Madhepura district.
According to a report of the Population Foundation of India, the situation was comparatively better in Siwan, Katihar, Purnia and Saran districts where the girls married off before they attained 18 years of age were 43 per cent, 47.5 per cent, 48.2 per cent and 51.3 per cent respectively.
In Patna district, hardly 40 per cent of girls below the legally permissible age get married and this could be attributed to higher percentage of literacy. At 52.7 per cent, Patna has the highest female literacy rate among districts in Bihar.
The UNICEF's latest report on the state of the world's children says parents consent to child marriage out of economic necessity, or because they believe marriage will protect girls from sexual assault and pregnancy outside marriage, extend girl's child-bearing years or ensure obedience to their husband's household.