Marriage of underage girls high in India: study

If one thinks economic and educational reforms have changed the mindset of people regarding early marriage in India...

Written by Express News Service | Mumbai | Published:March 14, 2009 3:19 am

If one thinks economic and educational reforms have changed the mindset of people regarding early marriage in India,a latest study published in an international journal is a must read. The study reported that 44.5 per cent of girls in the age group of 20-24 years were married before they reached 18 years of age.

According to the study conducted in various parts of India jointly by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) and National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health (NIRRH),the prevalence of child marriage remains high,fueling the risks of multiple unwanted pregnancies in less than 24 months,pregnancy terminations and female sterilizations. This Indo-US collaborative study,that analyzed the data collected during the National Family Health Survey III (NFHS),was published online in The Lancet — a reputed international medical journal.

“The prevalence of child marriage remains unacceptably high,” said Dr Donta Balahia,deputy director,NIRRH and co-author of the scientific paper.

The study found that more than one in five girls were married before age of 16,while 2.6 per cent were married before age 13.

The number of girls who got married before turning 18 were significantly more likely to report no contraceptive use before their first childbirth than those who married as adults.

“They think they might lose their potency by using contraception,” he said.

Nearly half — 48.4 per cent — of girls who were married when minors,reported giving birth before they turned 18. Such women were also more likely to have had repeat childbirths in less than 24 months and to have had three or more childbirths,than those who married after the age of 18,” said Dr Balahia adding,

“Sterilization rates were higher in the case of underage marriages than those who married as adults.”

There was a gender bias in the sterilization percentage,where over 13 per cent women were reported sterilized as against a mere 0.2 per cent men. The authors recommend that existing intervention programmes should be broadened to emphasise contraception other than sterilisation,especially among young women. They said such interventions also should include husbands and in-laws,“who might have more control on family planning.”

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