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UN slams child marriages

GS Paper 1

Topics Covered: Issues related to women and diversity of Indian society.



The UN has condemned underage forced marriages in Zimbabwe following the death of a 14-year-old girl reportedly during childbirth.

  • The death has sparked widespread anger on social media and among children’s rights activists.


Cases of child marriages in Zimbabwe:

Cases of violence perpetrated against women and girls in Zimbabwe, “including marriages of minors” are a matter of concern.

  • Official statistics show that one in three Zimbabwean girls are married off before the age of 18.


Child marriages across the world:

The total number of girls married in childhood stands at 12 million per year.

  • Across the globe, levels of child marriage are highest in sub-Saharan Africa, where 35 per cent of young women were married before age 18, followed by South Asia, where nearly 30 per cent were married before age 18.
  • Lower levels of child marriage are found in Latin America and Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa, and Eastern Europe and Central Asia.


UN and other international efforts towards ending child marriages:

  1. 1979 Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women provides that the betrothal and marriage of a child shall have no legal effect.
  2. The 1964 Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages says that States Parties to the present Convention shall take legislative action to specify a minimum age for marriage.
  3. The right to ‘free and full’ consent to marriage is recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  4. Although marriage is not mentioned directly in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, child marriage is linked to other rights – such as the right to freedom of expression, the right to protection from all forms of abuse, and the right to be protected from harmful traditional practices.
  5. In 2016, UNICEF, together with UNFPA, launched the Global Programme to End Child Marriage.
  6. The elimination of child, early and forced marriage is now part of the Sustainable Development Goals under Target 5 – achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.


What are the concerns associated with child marriages?

  1. Marriage before the age of 18 is a fundamental violation of human rights.
  2. While the practice is more common among girls than boys, it is a violation of rights regardless of sex.
  3. Child marriage often compromises a girl’s development by resulting in early pregnancy and social isolation, interrupting her schooling and limiting her opportunities for career and vocational advancement.
  4. Child marriage robs girls of their childhood and threatens their lives and health. Girls who marry before 18 are more likely to experience domestic violence and less likely to remain in school.
  5. Child brides often become pregnant during adolescence, when the risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth increases – for themselves and their infants.
  6. Because child marriage impacts a girl’s health, future and family, it imposes substantial economic costs at the national level, too, with major implications for development and prosperity.
  7. Without further acceleration, more than 120 million additional girls will marry before their 18th birthday by 2030.


Reasons for increasing cases of child marriages?

Many factors interact to place a child at risk of marriage, including poverty, the perception that marriage will provide ‘protection’, family honor, social norms, customary or religious laws that condone the practice, an inadequate legislative framework and the state of a country’s civil registration system.


Laws to prevent child marriages in India:

  1. The Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929 to restrict the practice of child marriage.
  2. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 to address and fix the shortcomings of the Child Marriage Restraint Act.


What needs to be done?

  1. Increase social awareness. Children need to be made aware of their human rights and must be taught to refuse and speak up once such an incident is taking place.
  2. The media also needs to adopt a more proactive role in generating awareness towards this heinous ritual.
  3. Changing social norms and attitudes towards girls.
  4. A strong legal and policy system can provide an important backdrop for improvements in services, changes in social norms and girls’ empowerment.
  5. Imparting value based education to the students in school stressing the importance of education and the ill effects of early marriage.
  6. Government could rope in achievers like Sakshi Malik, Dipa Karmakar and PV sindhu who have achieved great success in their field and parents and students can seek inspiration from their achievements.
  7. Inform the respective Child Development Project Officers, who are designated government officials, to stop child marriage.


Insta Curious:

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has certain roles and functions under the RTE Act, 2009. What are they? Reference: 



Prelims Link:

  1. About Rights if Children under the Indian Constitution.
  2. Overview of the conventions and international laws mentioned above.
  3. Laws to prevent Child Marriages in India.

Mains Link:

Suggest measures to counter child marriages in India.

Sources: the Hindu.