Most Underage Marriages Take Place in West Bengal, Survey

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A government survey on sexual behaviour and marriages in the country has revealed that West Bengal ranks highest in girls marrying as minors. In  India, the legal age of marriage is 18 years for girls and 21 years for boys. National Family Health Survey found that 28 per cent women in the age group of 18-29 and 17 per cent in the age group of 21-29 years marry before the legal age.

The report surveyed around 5.78 lakh women which led to the revelation of various facts around their sexual interaction. It discovered that 10% women in the age group of 25-49 had sex before turning 15 and 38% had their first sexual intercourse before the age of 18. By the time they turn 20, 58% women had already had sex in their lives.

It also revealed that urban women are more conservative than rural women in the context of having sex as they had it two years later than rural women.

Lakshadweep, Jammu & Kashmir and Kerala stand at the lowest in women in underage marriages with Lakshadweep at five percent and J&K and Kerala at nine per cent.

Bihar, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh follow West Bengal in young girls and boys marrying before coming of age. Women in West Bengal are at a larger number than men in this case as two-third women marry before the age of 18 at 44%. While it is 42% women in Bihar, 39% women in Jharkhand and 36% women in Andhra Pradesh.

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The survey also put other states of the country to test and found that women in Rajasthan, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, and Tripura (33 per cent each), as well as Dadra and Nagar Haveli (32 per cent) and Telangana (31 per cent) marry before their legal age.

However, Lakshadweep, Jammu and Kashmir and Kerala stand at the lowest in the test with five per cent and nine percent respectively. Himachal Pradesh and Punjab have 10 per cent women marrying below the age of 18.

But in all this, the average age for girls marrying has increased from 17.2 years in 2005-2006 to 19 years in 2015-2016. And for men, it was 22.6 years in 2005-06 and now it is 24.5 years in 2015-2016.

The report concludes that underage marriages are on a decline across the country.

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