Child Marriage in India By Anita Rao

In many communities around the world, young girls are seen as an economic burden and marriage transfers the responsibility to her new husband.The practice of families forcing children to marry at young ages is not only illegal, but denies children education, choice, and a future. Nevertheless, it is still very common, especially in low income countries. Specifically in India, it has become a large issue Child marriage is a huge denial of civil rights, mainly affecting the lives of many young girls in India. They are denied freedom to decide their own future and receive education. Overall, the issue is often hard to target as many weddings occur in secret, with only a select few invited guests. While there are organizations working to end this civil rights violation, because of the secrecy mostly awareness needs to be raised.
"Child Marriage affects society as a whole since child marriage reinforces a cycle of poverty and perpetuates gender discrimination, illiteracy and malnutrition as well as high infant and maternal mortality rates." (Unicef.in)
The issue of child marriage is similar, in many ways, to issues African Americans faced during the Civil Rights Era. Firstly, both civil rights issues are against the law. “Child marriage is illegal in India. The legal marriage age is 18 for girls and 21 for boys.” (Unicef) Despite the illegality, nearly 50% of girls married off before their 18th birthday and the legal marriage age. (Girlsnotbrides, "India") Though it is less common for boys, many young boys are illegaly married off by their parents as well. Similarly, amendments to the constitution made African Americans legally free and equal. The 14th amendment, “...granted citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States, including former slaves, and provided all citizens with equal protection under the laws.” (U.S. Senate) While both are illegal, they still unfortunately occur. Another similarity is that both Child Marriage in India and Civil Rights issues in America are often ignored by people outside the groups affected. In India, many child weddings are, “illegal and a secret, except to the invited guests...often conducted late at night” (Cynthia Gorney, "Too Young to Wed"). Similarly, many African American's rights were ignored by those not affected. During the Civil Rights Era, many protests and marches for equality were ignored by citizens in the towns where activists marched. However, after the violence of the Freedom Riders busses being blown up, people could no longer ignore the issue, and became aware of the violence's magnitude. Overall, the issue of child marriage is similar, in many ways, to those faced by African Americans during the Civil Rights Era.
"The practice of families forcing children to marry at young ages is not only illegal, but denies children education, choice, and a future."
While Child Marriage in India has many parallels to the Civil Rights Era, there are also differences that set them apart. Firstly, many African Americans were able to stand up for their rights, while most child brides cannot. During the Civil Rights Era, a very large portion of the population, all African Americans, were denied basic rights. There were many educated, strong-willed, and able people that protested and made a difference for their rights, leading the country to where it is today. Although they would have to encounter violence and hatred, through sit-ins, freedom rides, and marches African Americans could fight for rights during the Civil Rights Era. (History Channel, "March on Washington") On the other hand, most Indian children who are married off are not capable of fighting back. Because the children are forced to marry by parents, they often have no say. In addition, most children married off are uneducated and may not be aware of a way to fight back. Since, "Poor educational opportunities for girls, especially in rural areas, also increase girls’ vulnerability to child marriage." (Girlsnotbrides, "India), children who are married off are incapable of self-advocating, while Civil Rights Activists were not. Another difference is that less progress has been made towards ending child marriage in India. The Civil Rights movement is generally considered to be during the 1950's and 1960's. (History Channel, "Civil Rights Era") While African Americans still may not be fully equal today, progress has been made and the inequality they experienced during the Civil Rights Era has passed. However, child marriage in India is a very current issue, although it has gone on for a while. Some progress has been made due to activist groups, but there is still a very long ways to go. "While fewer Indian girls are marrying before the age of 15, rates of marriage have increased for girls between ages 15 to 18." (Girlsnotbrides, "India") There are some differences that set Indian Child Marriage and the Civil Rights Movement apart.
"In many communities restrictive Norms Limit girls to be seen as the property of her father and then of her newly married husband." (Girlsnotbrides, "India")

While the issue is still common and detrimental to many young girls and some boys as well across India, it is not a hopeless cause. There are many organizations and activist groups that target child marriage globally, or specifically within the country. The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund, or UNICEF is a UN program that is very active in preventing child marriage. The India branch of UNICEF has a website containing important information to educate the public, in order to create more awareness of the issue. India is one of 12 countries selected to be part of UNICEF’s main global push to end child marriage, as well.The Girls Not Brides organization targets child marriage globally too. With in India, there are 72 members of the Girls Not Brides organization working to prevent child marriages with in communities. Anyone can donate to the global cause, or specifically to efforts in India through girlsnotbrides.com. One more organization working against this civil rights issue is the International Center for Research on Women, or ICRW. The ICRW focuses on a variety of issues, but has a large focus on ending child marriage for both young girls and boys around the world. Overall, these important activist groups can help bring India one step closer to eradicating illegal, inhumane child marriages.

"The Girls Not Brides organization targets child marriage globally..."

Links to help:

Works Cited

Afghanistan, -. Mejgon Age 15, - Ban Ki-moon United Nations Secretary General, Father Of Groom Ethiopia, Ethiopia Kanas 18 at Interview, Yemen Tehani Married at 6, Afghanistan Mejgon Married at 11, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Graça Machel Members of The Elders. "Too Young To Wed." Too Young To Wed. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2017. <http://tooyoungtowed.org/>.

Afghanistan, -. Mejgon Age 15, and - Ban Ki-moon United Nations Secretary General. "Too Young To Wed." Too Young To Wed. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2017. <http://tooyoungtowed.org/>.

Brides, Girls Not. "Take Action." Girls Not Brides. Girlsnotbrides.com, n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2017. <http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/take-action/>.

"Child Marriage Archives." ICRW | PASSION. PROOF. POWER. ICRW, n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2017. <https://www.icrw.org/issues/child-marriage/>.

History.com Staff. "Civil Rights Movement." History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 25 Mar. 2017. <http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/civil-rights-movement>.

"The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights." Web Sites of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights & The Leadership Conference Education Fund. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2017. <http://www.civilrights.org/>.

UNICEF. "Child Marriage | UNICEF." Child Marriage | UNICEF. UN, n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2017. <http://unicef.in/Whatwedo/30/Child-Marriage>.

Credits:

Created with images by Nick Kenrick.. - "Rajasthan .. India"

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