Days after India celebrated Women’s Day with gusto, shocking details are emerging one after one. With the Pollachi sexual assault case sending shock waves across the country, a study has claimed that 61.4 per cent of the girls are considered as family burden by parents. The survey by Samakalvi Iyakkam (SKI) – a network of child rights organisations in the State – in association with one of leading NGOs from India – Child Rights and You (CRY) – was conducted to infer the status of girl child marriage in the age group of 15-18 years in relation to access to quality education.
It was carried out in 10 districts, namely Dharmapuri, Salem, Vellore, Tiruvallur, Chennai, Tiruvannamalai, Tirunelveli, Ramanathapuram, Dindigul and Trichy. A sample of over 200 girls married before 18 years was taken into consideration to map the results. Some of the other major findings show 82 per cent of the respondents were forced to get married early due to poverty. The other influencers of child marriage as per the respondents were societal pressure (70.5 per cent), neighbours (70 per cent) and backing or tacit support of religious authorities (67.6 per cent) for child marriage.
According to the study, 86.2 per cent of villages of the respondents did not have higher secondary schools while 84.8 per cent of villages did not have high schools which lead to drop-outs and subsequent child marriage instances. The study further revealed that when the girls are compelled to marry before age, 74.7 per cent experience abortions while 30.5 per cent of them undergo highly complicated deliveries. Lack of awareness within this age group of the girls also came out clearly with around 80 per cent of the respondents not knowing the legal age of marriage. Taking serious note of the study, the government and other stakeholders should initiate a string of steps to ensure a bright future for girl children.