The number of males who are married off before attaining legally permissible age of 21 has increased in Madhya Pradesh, while no such surge has been observed in case of underage (below 18) females, a survey shows.
The latest annual health survey (AHS) report for 2012-13 reveals 21.3% of the males got married before turning 21, compared to 18.3% in 2011-12. In rural areas, 28.4% males married before the age of 21 years compared to 24.7% in 2011-12.
Interestingly, the percentage has risen even in urban areas, where 7.9% underage males got married in 2012-13 compared to 6.6% in 2011-12. The report also shows the increase in the number of underage marriages involving males in 35 out of the 50 districts.
In Jhabua, an increase of 10% was recorded within the year (55.3% from 45.2%) while in Shajapur, an increase of 9.65% (37.3% from 27.7%) was reported. The AHS report shows that for females, underage marriages have gone up to 10.6% from 10.4% in 2011-12. However, marginal increase has been recorded in 20 out of 50 districts, with districts like Jhabua, Shajapur, Rajgarh and Khandwa topping the list.
Underage marriages are one of the major social problems in Madhya Pradesh. On auspicious occasions like Akshay Tritiya, hundreds of very young couples are married off in various districts of the state.
NGO Child Rights Observatory of MP (CROMP), which works on the issue, has said the increasing trend is worrying, especially because the state government has been reiterating its commitment towards curbing child marriages in the state. Commissioner women empowerment Kalpana Shrivastava, when contacted, said she had not yet seen the latest figures and would comment after analysing the statistics.