Child marriage is one of the many social evils that are prominent in our country. Child marriage is defined as a formal or an informal matrimonial union of children who are below the age of eighteen. Both boys and girls are victims of this social evil but girls are directly affected owing to childbirth.
Though it is officially frowned upon and banned as per the law in our country, this act is still prevalent in a lot of places, especially in rural areas. The various reasons the practice still exists are namely social, cultural and financial factors. These factors include poverty, lower dowry demands, the lack of educational opportunities, a large number of children in a single low-income family, cultural constraints and ignorance. Children are most often unaware of the impact of the act of marriage itself and engage in it mostly under the jurisdiction exercised by the elders in the family. The act further includes a lot of Orthodox practises after the marriage itself which leaves no scope for the child to have an independent identity and find his or her place in the society. Once the children get married they are forced to obey the norms of the patriarchal society as dictated by the adults.
Marriage is a union of bodies, minds and families. There are various other factors associated to the sacrament of marriage. These factors include the financial responsibility, emotional maturity and physical well-being. It is essential for the female to be of the right age in order for her to bear the act and the responsibility of childbirth.
If a girl who is under the age of eighteen gives birth to a child there is a high chance that the child she bears will not be healthy and face a lot of consequences. Apart from the emotional trauma, early childbearing increases infant mortality rate. The mother is also at risk as she is not mature enough to bear the responsibilities that accompany marriage and childbirth. Furthermore, apart from childbearing, the act of marriage itself is a huge sacrifice. The girl is forced to abandon her education, hopes and aspirations. She has to live according to the norms established by the family and behave like an adult despite her age.
The male is also equally affected. There is a huge pressure on a young mind to start a family and carry the burden. This pressure later in his life will create a lot of psychological trauma and there is a high chance he will fall prey to various psychological addictions like the consumption of alcohol, tobacco as he grows older. Childhood is a period of one’s life where the child should learn and play. It is essential to preserve the innocence of childhood rather than impose such responsibilities on there. They should be encouraged to learn and grow until they are old enough to bear the matrimonial responsibilities.
In order to tackle this issue, it is essential that the people who engage in this act should be made aware of the drastic consequences of the act. The law against child marriage should be enforced with all strictness. The places in which this act is prevalent should be monitored. Children who belong to low-income groups should be awarded scholarships and ample educational activities. There is also a need the empowerment of the girl child and to see the girl child as an asset and not as a liability.
Let’s all take a firm stance against child marriage and raise our voices!