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Fewer teen marriages in India over a decade: Govt

Murshidabad in West Bengal shows the highest prevalence (39.9%) of marriage among 15-19-years-old followed by Gandhinagar (39.3 %) in Gujarat and Bhilwara (36.4%) in Rajasthan.

india Updated: Sep 11, 2018 23:34 IST
Moushumi Das Gupta
Moushumi Das Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
teen marriages,Child marriage,NCPCR
There are still 100 districts that show a higher prevalence of marriage among 15- to 19-year-olds than the national average of 11.9%.(PTI File Photo)

The prevalence of marriage in India among 15-19-year-old girls declined in the decade between 2005-06 and 2015-16, from 26.5% to 11.9%, according to a report released by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) Tuesday.

The report is based on a comparative analysis of data on child marriage in the 15-19 age group from the third and fourth rounds of the National Family Health Survey (NHFS) conducted in 2005-2006 and 2015-16. The report has been prepared by Young Lives India, a research centre, in collaboration with the NCPCR.

“So far the NHFS-4 analysed child marriage data in the 20-24 age group. This is the first time that the child marriage data from NFHS-4 has been analyzed in the 15-19 age group and it shows a decline in prevalence. Also, for the first time, the district-level trend has been analyzed” said NCPCR chairperson Stuti Kacker.

Ambuj Sharma, secretary general of the National Human Rights Commission who also spoke at the launch of the report, said that although the NFHS-4 data showed a reduction in child marriage, the statistics are based on sample survey, not on 100% enumeration.

“In absolute numbers, as per the Census 2011, child marriage has gone up by 0.9 million as compared to Census 2001. The proof of the pudding will be to see what the Census 2021 figures reveal,” he said.

Despite the declining trend, what has worried policy makers is the fact that there are still 100 districts spread across 14 states that show a higher prevalence of marriage among 15-to19-year-old girls than the national average of 11.9%. Among states, Bihar has the maximum number (20) of high-prevalence districts.

Murshidabad in West Bengal shows the highest prevalence (39.9%) of marriage among 15-19-years-old followed by Gandhinagar (39.3 %) in Gujarat and Bhilwara (36.4%) in Rajasthan.

The report also analysed the number of children born to teenage mothers. More than one out of four married teenage girls in the 15-19 age group become mothers in India, the report said States such as Goa (64%), Mizoram (61%) and Meghalaya (53%) have the highest prevalence of teenage pregnancy among girls married early.

“India should have a mission mode approach to tackle child marriage,” Sharma said.

The analysis also reveals that the highest prevalence of child marriage is reported among scheduled tribe girls (15%) followed by scheduled caste ones (13%). Andhra Pradesh tops the list of states with a high prevalence of child marriage reported among ST and SC communities, followed by Assam and Bihar.

“The good news is the decreasing trend in child marriage. But then there are some 100 districts where child marriage and teenage pregnancy still exists. We need to specifically focus on these districts,” Renu Singh, country director, Young Lives, said,

Singh said that one important intervention could be to make education free and compulsory for children aged up to 18 years. “Presently, the Right to Education Act makes education free and compulsory for children till 14 years. Making it mandatory till 18 years can go a long way to ensure that girls over 14 years don’t drop out of schools.”

First Published: Sep 11, 2018 23:34 IST