Despite decline in the rate of child marriages among young girls in India, Bihar continues to have the highest percentage of marriages before reaching the legally prescribed age of 18 years, according to a UN body. The report, citing data from national family health survey (NFHS), has further said that the progress is not sufficient to guarantee their right to education and self determination.
The UN on Thursday marked the first International Day of the Girl Child, focusing on the theme of calling for an end to child marriages and stressing that education was one of the best strategies for protecting girls against this eharmful practice.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has announced that it will invest an additional USD 20 million over the next five years to reach the most marginalised adolescent girls in 12 countries with high rates of child marriage. The countries to be focused on include India, Nigeria, Guatemala and Zambia.
According to UNFPAfs report, eMarrying Too Young: End Child Marriagef, which was released on Thursday, in India 47% of women between 20 to 24 years of age had married or entered into a union by the time they were 18, during 2000-2011.
Of these 47% women, 56% lived in the rural areas and almost 30% in urban households. Nearly 76% of the girls had no education. Further, 75% of the young girls hailed from the poorest of the poor households and 16% from the rich households.
Data from three consecutive household surveys in India showed that the rate of child marriage among girls under age 15 is declining at more than twice the rate than among girls under 18 years of age. The decline for girls under 15 years of age is 30% as compared to 13% reduction for girls under the age of 18.
While this can be interpreted as a sign of progress, it is still not sufficient to guarantee children their full rights in terms of education, sexual and reproductive health and the right to selfdetermination,h the report said.
It said wide variations in the prevalence of child marriage were found within India.
Citing NHFS data, 2006, it said that Indian states such as Goa, Manipur and Kerala have prevalence rates of 15% or less (11%, 13% and 15%, respectively).
At the opposite extreme, in a number of states, at least half of the girls are married or enter a union before age of 18, such as in states like Bihar (60%), Uttar Pradesh (50%) and Andhra Pradesh (55%).
Globally, despite efforts to decrease the practice of child marriage, the frequency of child marriage has remained level over the last decade, the report said.
The report pointed out that if current trends continue, the number of girl child marriages will increase dramatically over the next 10 years.
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