27% children in India are married before they turn 18, says UN report
The report by the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) says India continues to lag behind in protecting women from birth-related deaths.india Updated: Oct 18, 2017 07:15 IST
India is on track to population stabilisation but is still lagging behind in preventing child marriage and protecting mothers from birth-related complications and deaths.
India’s maternal mortality rate (MMR) — mothers dying per 1,00,000 live births — of 174 is below the global average of 216, but it is a far cry from the MMR of 12 in the more developed countries, shows ‘State of World Population 2017’ released by United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) on Tuesday.
Twenty-seven percent of India’s children get married by age 18 as compared to 28% the world over. Among its neighbours, Bangladesh is worst off, with 59% of the married couples being under-age, followed by Nepal (37%).
The report, which analyses changes in global demographics — birth, migration, aging, death etc — notes India’s total fertility rate (TFR) — number of children a woman has in her life — is lower than the world average of 2.5.
Updated data from India’s ministry of health puts India’s TFR at 2.2. “The latest data shows TFR has come down to 2.2 but we need to bring it down to 2.1, which is essential for population stabilisation,” said a senior health ministry official.
The average TFR in India’s neighbourhood of the Asia and the Pacific regions is 2.1, while it’s 1.7 in more developed countries.
“We are focusing on select districts with TFR of more than three by introducing programmes specifically designed for the purpose,” said the official.
The report also revealed that gaps in wealth have grown wide within most countries; with many hundreds of millions living on less than Rs 78 a day.
The combined wealth of the world’s 2,473 billionaires exceeds $7.7 trillion, which equalled the combined gross domestic product of four-fifths of the world’s countries in 2015.
The unmet demand for family planning in developing countries, for example, was also found to be greatest among women in the poorest 20% of households.
Among adolescents, those in the poorest 20% of households in developing countries have about three times as many births as adolescents in the richest 20%.
Meeting the contraception demand is a foundational element, not just of reproductive health, but of social and economic equality. In developing countries, the poorest 20% of women are more likely to give birth without assistance. In rural areas of least developed countries, 48% of births happened with skilled attendants as compared to 99% in the villages of more developed countries.
India ranks 18th in the world with 81% of its births taking place through skilled personnel, which is better than 77% globally. Adolescent birth rate per 1,000 girls aged 15-19 years between 2006 and 2017 is 28. The rate around the world is 44 per 1,000 girls in the same age group.
Contraceptive coverage is another area that needs government focus, as contraceptive prevalence rate— percentage of women who are currently using, or whose sexual partner is currently using, at least one method of contraception — in India remains 56% among women aged 15-49 years. Those opting for modern contraceptive methods is even less at 50 %.
“We have introduced two new contraceptives this year in a bid to increase the basket of choice,” said the health ministry official.