Srinagar- Jammu & Kashmir has recorded the second lowest percentage of underage marriages for women across India, according to the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS) report.
The latest data—NFHS-5—which provides data by socio-economic and other background characteristics that remains useful for policy formulation and effective programme implementation, was released by Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya in Vadodara, Gujrat, on Thursday.
Among the states and Union Territories, J&K and Ladakh have recorded a 6 percent (each) average of underage marriages for women while at the National level about twenty-five percent of women aged 18-29 are married before reaching the legal minimum age, the report said.
“About two-fifths of women marry before reaching the legal minimum age at marriage in West Bengal (42%), Bihar (40%), and Tripura (39%), and about one-third of women marry before reaching the legal minimum age at marriage in Jharkhand (35%) and Andhra Pradesh (33%).” it said.
The report further said that the percentage marrying before the legal minimum age in “Assam is 32 percent, 28 percent in Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu, 27 percent in Telangana, and 25 percent each in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan”.
The percentage of women marrying before reaching the legal minimum age of 18, it said, is lowest in Lakshadweep (4%); Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh (6% each); Himachal Pradesh, Goa, and Nagaland (7% each), and Kerala and Puducherry (8% each).
Overall, 20-25 percent of men age 21-29 in Bihar (25 percent), Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh (24 per cent each), Jharkhand (22 per cent), Arunachal Pradesh (21 per cent), and West Bengal (20 percent) marry before the legal minimum age of 21 years.
The lowest proportions of men marrying below the legal age at marriage are in Lakshadweep and Chandigarh (less than 1 per cent), Kerala (1 percent), Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, and Nagaland (4 per cent each), Karnataka and Andaman and Nicobar Islands (5 per cent each), Himachal Pradesh and Goa (6 per cent each), and Delhi, Punjab, and Maharashtra (9 per cent each).
However, despite such a higher percentage in most of the parts of India, the report also said that the early marriage percentage has been declining over time.
“Marriage before the legal age of 18 is 23 percent for women aged 20-24, compared with 47 percent for women aged 45-49. Similarly, for men, marriage before the legal age of 21 years has dropped from 27 per cent for men aged 45-49 to 18 per cent for men aged 25-29.” The NFHS report revealed.
As per NFHS, the median age at first marriage for women aged 20-49 slightly increased from 19 years in 2015-16 to 19.2 years in 2019-21. For men aged 25-49, the median age at first marriage slightly increased between 2015-16 and 2019-21 (from 24.5 to 24.9 years).
The report further noted that women who have qualified 12 or more years of schooling marry much later when compared to other women. “The median age at first marriage for women aged 25-49 increases from 17.1 years for women with no schooling to 22.8 years for women with 12 or more years of schooling.” NFHS noted.
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