Sunday, 17 July 2016

child marriage


There are many causes of child marriage in India and multiple barriers to its elimination. Poverty, weak enforcement of laws, patriarchal social norms intended to ensure family honour and illiteracy are significant factors that increase the risk of girl being married off while still a child.
The consequences of illiteracy are many and harmful in several respects. As well as affecting illiterate individuals themselves in their daily lives and often jeopardizing their future, this scourge has a significant effect on society, both socially and economically. The link between academic failure and delinquency, abuse, violence and crime is welded to reading failure. In short, illiteracy is the nursing mother of crime.
We received information about a 16 year old girl from Varkala regarding child marriage.  The information was given by her neighbour
As per the information, the CHILDLINE staff visited the child’s home and met her mother. Upon inquiry with her, it was revealed that the child had eloped and stayed with her paramour for a week. They had plans for arranging an engagement function for them. Since the girl’s family was going through a financial standstill, it was called off. This prompted the girl to run away.
The CHILDLINE staff visited the house of the paramour but the child was not present. We contacted the mother and asked her to bring the child to CHILDLINE. As per our demand the child and her family came down to the centre. They were accompanied by her lover and his family. 
Our team had a detailed counselling with the child and it was understood that the child was 17 years old. On further investigation we found that, the marriage was arranged by the mother herself. The step father of the child was an alcoholic and used to physically abuse the mother daily in an inebriated state. Both the mother and child were illiterate and had absolutely no knowledge on the norms and practices of the society. In another shocking turn of events, it was clear that the girl had dropped out of second grade due to the financial constraints of the family.
We gave awareness to both the families and sent them back to respective families. We intervened to educate the child. An Open House was planned at the slum in Varkala where the child lived to create awareness among the community on different aspects of Child rights, Child Issues and so on. In between the visits for pre-open house child shared that she wanted to continue her education.  We submitted a letter to the concerned Ward Councillor and Educational Standing Committee Chairperson. On 31st May 2016, during the open house session, the further education of the child was guaranteed by the Kerala State Literacy Mission with the help of ward councillor.
The child is currently pursuing her studies with the help of the Literacy Mission.
Major Reasons for Child Marriage
According to UNICEF, here are some other major reasons for child marriage:
Limited education opportunities, low quality of education, inadequate infrastructure, lack of transport and therefore concerns about girls’ safety while travelling to school significantly contribute to keeping girls out of school and therefore tend to favour child marriage.

Although there is widespread awareness of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 (PCMA) and the illegality of child marriage, individually people feel that the traditions and norms are stronger than the law and the institutions and rarely report cases. On top of this, there is limited capacity among officials and lack of willingness to go against community decisions, since officials are themselves part of the community.

Girls are often seen as a liability with limited economic role. Women’s work is confined to the household and is not valued. In addition, there is the problem of dowry. Despite the fact that dowry has been prohibited for five decades (Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961), it is still common for parents of girls in India to give gifts to the groom and /or his family either in cash or kind.

The dowry amount increases with the age and the education level of the girl. Hence, the “incentive” of the system of dowry perpetuates child marriage. 

Law enforcement to prohibit child marriage is relatively weak. Limited detailed knowledge on how to apply laws and little understanding of the consequences of the laws, as well as limited trust in institutions enforcing them, undermines the implementation of the PCMA.

The families and girls who might benefit from social protection programmes are not always aware of them and these schemes are often limited to providing cash transfers without the accompanying messages to address the multi-dimensional nature of child marriage. The fallout of this is that cash transfers tend to perpetuate dowry, since parents use the grant for that purpose as soon as the girl turns 18 years old.

The practice of child marriage–matrimony before age 18–continues to disproportionately affect girls in certain cultures and communities with significant consequences to their education, health, and social life. Child brides have little say in when or whom they will marry, have little influence with their husbands and in-laws, have little opportunity to develop awareness of their rights, and are in no position to claim or demand them.
 The Superlative Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage: Educate Parents 
Some parents from traditional communities believe that child marriage is a way of protecting their daughters: providing for her economically so she will be taken care of; safeguarding her from harassment and sexual violence before she reaches puberty, and preventing premarital sex which is still taboo in many countries across the world.
Unfortunately, families often do not know the negative and harmful effects of early child marriage, including pregnancy at such a young age which can lead to many complications as a girl’s body will not be ready for childbirth. Such parents will benefit from being educated on the very serious harmful effects of forced early childhood marriage. Inspirational Example: In Zambia, Chief Nzamane of the Mfumbeni tribe works with the parents of girls who are at risk of being sold for lucrative dowries. He understands the financial pressures on families and finds way to help them stay financially secure without needing to force their daughters, in his words, into “lifelong trauma.”

Though the practice of child marriage is rooted in tradition and culture, neither culture nor tradition is immutable and there is hope for change.