Child Marriage- Loss of Childhood
A widely prevalent practice in some around the world and especially in India, child marriage is considered to be a factor that takes our development and progress a step backwards. Today with the advancements made in science and technology there should be no space for thoughts such as child marriage or female infanticide to seep into the minds of the society. If a country needs to progress in keeping with the pace of the developed world, then such practices must be done away with and stringent laws must be brought into force to ensure that such practices do not take places. The only country in the world where child marriage is legal is Scotland and children above the age of 16years do not need parental consent to marry.
There were many reasons why child marriage became a practice which included social, political and caste issues. Even military reasons became one of the many for child marriage to be conducted. The political situation in the middle ages during the reign of the Mughals prompted the practice of child marriage to ensure that their progeny contributed to the population. Social evils like abduction and molestations were on the rise due to various foreign invasions and to protect the women from such atrocities child marriages were performed.
Another social evil was the prevalence of the caste system which gained root right from the early ages and to some extent is still relevant today. Some castes advocated child marriage and to follow the diktats of the caste system child marriage was conducted. Though most these reasons were relevant enough for the practice there are many other reasons too why parents allow and perform child marriages. Firstly they were so improvised and poor that they couldn’t afford to feed an extra mouth, so the girls were married off early. The boys on the other hand saw the girls as an extra source of income for them as they got an extra pair hands to work and earn. This concept instigated this unlawful practice.
The occurrence of child marriage was later seen as a social evil in the modern society and hence governments of various countries have prohibited the practice making it illegal and punishable under the law. In India the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929 and The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 were successful attempts to put a prohibition on the practice and today though it has been successfully declined except for a one odd case that is heard from the interior of the country.
There practice of child marriage resulted in various problems primarily the health problems. The girl was affected the most as her physical condition was worst hit. Girls at that age were and even now are not aware of their biological conditions. Pregnancy related problems cropped up and the mortality rate of girls increased significantly especially during childbirth. The girls are not psychologically or emotionally prepared to bear a child and the forced pregnancy leaves them shattered mentally, emotionally and physically.
Apart from the mothers, the babies born to these young mothers who are below 18 years of age are also affected and their life is cut short in the first year itself. Death due to malnutrition, low birth weight and above all poor cognitive development was rampant. Moreover, the mother, who is a child herself, is not informed about motherhood and the responsibilities it carries along with it. So the lack of attention on the new born baby is also another reason why the babies die in the first year of their birth.
Today with education and awareness, women have more freedom to choose their time of marriage. The government too has made all efforts to ensure that no child marriage takes place and if it does leaves no stone unturned to punish the guilty.
( Educationist with more than 15 years expeience in India and Abroad. Presently He is serving the cause of education in Tanzania. You can send your responses to him at email@example.com)