Monday, March 16, 2009

Child Marriages in India

Nearly half of Indian brides wed before they are 18-years-old, the legal age for marriage since 1978, a survey by the Lancet medical magazine says.
A recent BBC article discusses how child marriage continues to be a problem for rural, poor and less educated girls living in India. Dr. Anita Raj (a fellowship advisor of mine from grad school) led the study which discusses the adverse health consequences of child marriages.
"Child marriage has serious consequences for national development, stunting education and vocational opportunities for a large sector of the population," says the paper, led by Anita Raj, a doctor at Boston University School of Public Health in Massachusetts.
Even with regard to India's existing policies against such practices and the country's economic development, child marriage has failed to be eradicated from rural and poor populations. India first introduced laws against child marriage in 1929 and set the legal age for marriage at 12 years. The legal age for marriage was increased to 18 in 1978.
The survey says:
*Child brides are 37% more likely not to have used contraception before their first child was born
*Seven times likelier to have three or more births
*Three times likelier to have a repeat childbirth in less than 24 months
*Fifty percent likelier to have an abortion
*Six times likelier to seek sterilisation
The reason why there are such high levels of sterilization among young brides is because they have had their desired number of children at an earlier age. Researchers warned that this could reduce condom use in such couples, which would heighten the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

Hat tip to KS for the article.

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