One in three girls get married before the age of 18 in the workforce of India. This is as per an estimate from the latest census data of 2011. This makes up a staggering 32% of an already declining Female Labour Force Participation (FLFP) rate. However, in the case of boys a mere six percent got married below the age of 18. The report further states that a little less under half of the girls- 15% get married before the age of 16.
The stark difference in the age of marriage of both the genders shows the deeply engrained patriarchal structure at play in the Indian society. However, the silver lining here is that the rate of women marrying before their legal age has improved from the previous census data of 2001. Earlier, one in two girls used to get married before the age of 18 and one in 10 boys used to get married before 18. It’s a small percentage, but also a step forward in the right direction.
We also had a high FLFP rate in 2001 while it has been declining ever since. The scenario with women in the overall workforce is more or less same with main workers and marginal worker- workers who work for less than 183 days in a year. Some of the states which have the highest rate of women workers marrying before the age of 18 are Rajasthan with 44.5% out of the total workforce, Andhra Pradesh- 43.3%, Madhya Pradesh- 41.4%, West Bengal-39.1% and Chhattisgarh- 38.7%.
While there is a huge gap in the percentage of child grooms and brides, a bigger question looms over the head of who these girls are getting married to. Time and again cases of older men marrying young girls have surfaced where older men have married girls as young as 6 years of age. Just last year in Rajasthan, a 35-year-old councillor Ratan Lal Jat married a six year old girl from his village in June, as reported by Metro.
“This is totally the failure of our government in controlling child marriage. We have a law that criminalises child marriage but at the same time government needs to enforce it too,” said Ranjana Kumari, Director of Centre for Social research to Shethepeople.TV. She added, “this is actually violence on women to get them married before the age of 18 since we are not coming to decision about making guidelines for conjugal rights as otherwise sex will be considered rape, according to Indian law. So there is a conflict in legal position is itself there on this issue.”
A matter of concern surely, this is a huge setback for the young girls in Indian especially at a time when strong demographics mean massive growth for the country.
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