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Despite laws permitting women and men to marry when they turn the legal age of 18 and 21 respectively, child marriage continues to be a massive problem in India with it even being glorified in some cases.
India is one of the few countries worldwide where child marriage continues to be widely accepted, with about 40% of the world’s child marriage cases originating there. Despite strict government laws forbidding marriage between minors, families still find loopholes, such as marrying their children discreetly late at night.
You might be wondering, why are families such in a rush to marry off their children? To answer this question, we need to look at India’s demographics and socioeconomic conditions. Nearly all of the child-marriage cases are between families who live in rural areas and are in poverty. In many cases, families cannot afford to take care of their daughters, so they marry them off to a male—sometimes much older, to support them. Because of the fact that most of India’s rural community live on less than 1$ a day, parents marry off their daughter to have one less mouth to feed.
At first glance, it seems incredibly ironic to see that married couples continue to have children despite knowing that they cannot afford to take care of them, but there is a deeper side to the story. According to some beliefs in Indian society, male children are superior to female children because of the notion that they are able to work and take care of their family. For decades, girls in India are seen as a ‘burden’ to families because they are inclined to the belief that a girl cannot contribute to her family in any way. When child brides are married, they are not allowed to pursue an education; they must learn to raise a family of their own and that is it. Little do their parents realize that restricting their daughter’s right to education is making the situation worse.
In Rajasthan, India, more than 50% of girls are married before the age of 15. No doubt, they suffer immense physical, psychological, and emotional damage—especially being forced to have a child of their own as soon as they reach puberty. Besides the fact that having a child at such a young age is extremely dangerous and life-threatening, it is paradoxical to note that a child will now have a child.
Child marriage continues to be glorified via the media
With India having the largest number of child brides in the world, according to International lobbying Association “Girls Not Brides,” strict measures must be taken by the government to eradicate this epidemic. Unfortunately, child marriage continues to be glorified in society, with a significant example being Hindi TV show “Pehredaar Piya Ki.” Here, a 10-year-old Prince is seen marrying an 18-year-old girl because he is deeply in love with her and it is the Prince’s father’s last wish. In some scenes, the couple is seen talking about their honeymoon, and the Prince is seen depicting stalkerish behavior towards his newly-wed wife. While the show is now being taken off the air, it would not have happened without Jai Ho Foundation’s petition to have the show abolished for glorifying child marriage and child sexuality.
It is incredibly irresponsible for digital network ‘Sony TV’ to allow the show to air in the first place, knowing that India has a deeply rooted child marriage problem. Not only did production waste millions of Rupees, but displaying a TV show of such nature all around the country may allow parents and their children to believe that child marriage is acceptable.
There’s time and place for everything. Children should be focusing on their education, not a marriage. For India’s child marriage epidemic to be cured, the government needs to creatively solve the problem, as it is painfully clear that enforcing laws do not cut it.