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Child Marriage in India

By Amigos IAS

Why is it in the news?

  • A Lancet study highlighted the prevalence of child marriage in certain states, emphasizing the need for targeted interventions.
  • The states of Bihar, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, and Maharashtra collectively account for more than half of the total cases of child marriages among girls.

More about the news

National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5) 2019-21:

  • In the age group of 20-24 years, 14.7% of women in urban areas and a significantly higher 27% in rural areas were married before turning 18.
  • Among women aged 15-19 years, 3.8% in urban areas and 7.9% in rural areas were already mothers or pregnant at the time of the survey.
  • West Bengal experienced the largest absolute increase in the headcount of child marriages.

Child marriage has multifaceted impacts on individuals and society:

  • Child brides often face complications during pregnancy and childbirth due to their immature bodies, leading to increased risks of maternal and infant mortality.
  • Once married, girls are less likely to continue their formal education, limiting their opportunities for personal and economic development.
  • Rooted in gender inequality, child marriage reinforces traditional gender roles and norms.
  • Lack of legal protection and social support may leave child brides trapped in abusive situations without recourse.
  • Child brides may have limited control over their reproductive rights, including family planning and the number and spacing of their children.
  • Child marriage is often linked to poverty, creating a cycle where poverty leads to child marriage, and child marriage perpetuates poverty by limiting education and economic opportunities.

The Government of India has implemented various measures to address and eliminate child marriage:

  • The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, serves as a dedicated legal framework aimed at preventing and prohibiting child marriages. It sets the legal age of marriage as 18 years for girls and 21 years for boys.
  • National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR): Undertakes various activities and programs with stakeholders such as Child Welfare Committees, Police, and Women and Child Development Department to address child marriages.
  • CHILDLINE 1098: Introduced as a 24×7 telephone emergency outreach service, it responds to calls for any form of assistance required by children, including prevention of child marriages.
  • Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) Scheme: Launched in 2015, this national initiative focuses on improving the status of girls and addressing issues such as female foeticide, child marriage, and gender-based discrimination. It emphasizes the importance of education and encourages the protection and empowerment of girls.
  • Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS): The ICDS program aims to improve the nutritional and health status of children, including those at risk of child marriage, by providing health check-ups, immunization, and nutrition support.
  • National Plan of Action for Children 2016: Outlines the government’s commitment to child welfare and includes strategies to prevent child marriages.
  • Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA): An ongoing program aimed at providing universal access to quality elementary education, addressing the root cause of child marriage by promoting education for all children, including girls.
  • Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls (SABLA): Targets adolescent girls (11-18 years) and aims to empower them through education, life skills training, and nutrition support, thereby preventing early marriage.
  • Awareness Campaigns: The government, in collaboration with non-governmental organizations, conducts awareness campaigns to educate communities about the harmful effects of child marriage.



  • While there has been a national decline in child marriage, the prevalence remains a concern, especially in certain regions.
  • Notably, there has been a substantial decline in prevalence, with girl child marriage decreasing from 49% in 1993 to 22% in 2021, and boy child marriage reducing from 7% in 2006 to 2% in 2021. However, Continuous efforts and a holistic approach are essential for sustained progress.

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