Did you know that 27 percent of all brides in India are married as children? According to the UNICEF, 18 percent of all girls in India are married before the age of 15 years and 47 percent are married before the age of 18 years (UNICEF 151). Child marriage refers to formal or informal union with a person under the age of 18 years. It includes both girls and boy although girls are the most affected by the practice. For centuries, the practice of child marriage has been a common phenomenon in India. Those who support the practice see women as an extra burden to the family. I however see this as a wrong notion because girls can become as useful as men can if not better if they get equal opportunities. This essay will therefore show why child marriage apart from being illegal is also detrimental to the society.
The practice of marrying off girls at a tender age has been a common and almost widely accepted social practice in India. While the local and international laws have clearly market the practice as illegal, it continuous to thrive especially in the rural, poverty stricken areas. There is a need to confront the challenge because is poses a serious social, political and economic problem to the country. Child marriage denies girls access to opportunities in life. It also demeans their status as human beings in the society. However, other people view the practice as a useful social and economic practice. Some believe that marrying off girls early prevents them from engaging in risky behaviors. They further believe that by giving away their daughters for marriage, they do not have to share the ancestral property or bear the burden of educating the girls. Furthermore, people believe that girls will be married and leave the family so there is no need to invest in them only to benefit the family that will marry the girl.
From the perspective of those who support the act, early marriage is beneficial to the family economically. A family often relies on the children for labor in production of its income especially the rural agricultural communities. In these communities, girls remain at home while the male family members carry out the important roles of the family. As such, girls appear less useful to the family. They have not meaningful contribution to make that can help the family prosper. Boys on the other hand are stronger and can be useful in providing useful labor to the family.
Girls also tend to be married into another family leaving their relatives behind. Because they will go into another family, investing in them amounts to a waste of the family resources. Parents therefore see that keeping the girls at home will force them to pay for their education. Ultimately, the educated girl will be married into another family taking with her the benefits that would accrue to her parents. Because of this notion, girls are better off married early to remove the burden from their parents (Lal 2995).
Most of the families that give away their girls for marriage are often poor. In such families, there are few resources to share among the siblings. In the community where girls are seen as less important members, they have no rights to own property. The fathers often find it beneficial to give away their daughters in exchange for some economic gains known as dowry. There are other communities where the girl’s family gives dowry to the family where the girl is married. Such a situation further diminishes the value of a woman because the family has to lose some economic resources for the girl to get married especially if the girl is older. It is therefore easy to give away the girl when she is worth little so that the family does not have to give more in dowry (Care International, 1).
The limitation of these views is that they fail to notice the reality of the modern world. In the modern world, a woman is as equally important as a man is. Economies that have embraced women as equal members have achieved more economic gains. Failing to educate girls reduces the country’s competitiveness. Human capital is an important component of economic growth. Investing in the education of everyone in the society increases the country’s total productivity. Because of an increase in productivity, the national output grows increasing opportunities for employment and larger incomes to individuals and households.
Contrary to the opinion of the proponents, child marriage is a social vice that causes more harm than good to the families and the community. As indicate earlier, the practice denies the girls access to education. Lack of education in the girls who are married early leads the women to have more children because they lack knowledge about family planning or access to contraception. Because of large families, the country’s population growth remains high. On the other hand, there is no associated increase in economic output to support their needs. This practice delays the benefits that a country could reap from reduction in population growth (Wodon & Petroni).
Ending early marriage improves education attainment for girls. Increased education attainment brings several benefits for a nation and the household. Because of increased education, a girl’s expected lifetime earnings increases. Because of increased income, the household income also improves. A highly education population is also a big resource for economic growth because of increased productivity.
Ending child marriage also improves the population’s health outcomes. Child marriage results in teenage pregnancies. There is an increased risk of complications and death during delivery among teen mothers. The lack of education and immaturity makes the girls unprepared to take care of their babies. Their babies are also likely to have poor health outcomes. The poor health outcomes of the practice place a huge economic burden to the families and the entire economy (UNICEF 10, 11).
Children born to child spouses are likely to suffer the same problem that their mothers experience. Child marriage thrusts children into a vicious cycle of deprivation and poverty. Because the mothers will often be poor and uneducated, their children often end up uneducated and married early if they are girls. This expands the population of the poor in a country. This worsens the problem of poverty that a family was trying to eliminate in the first place. A community that promotes child marriage is therefore likely to remain trapped in poverty for a longer time until they end the vice (UNICEF 11).
From the analysis, proponents of child marriage fail to contextualize the practice in a wider perspective. Instead, they base their support for the vice on selfish short-term interests. Putting the vice on the context of the entire nations paints a different picture. The family might benefit in the short run but their actions do not help them solve future poverty for the family or the country. Selfish interests blind their judgment to temporal solutions to a lasting problem.
To stop the vice, there is need to engage the entire community to change attitudes towards girls in the society. The men especially need to be taught to value women as equal members of the society contributing to its growth in their own ways. The people should also understand that the problem continues to hurt them both not and in the future and the only solution is to allow girls to go to school so that they can make better life choices about family size.
Proponents of the child marriage have been seen to be more focused on short-term economic considerations such dowry, cost of education and the current economic contribution of women. Arguing against the practice, I show that the practice leads to long-term economic consequences that can only be resolved by ending the practice. It is therefore necessary to everyone to take a stance against the practice to unravel the gains that can be accrued from stopping child marriage.
- Care International. Child Marriage: Complicated Problem, Simple Solution.
- Lal, Suresh. Child Marriage in India: Factors and Problems. International Journal of Science and Research, 4(4), 2015, 2993 – 2998.
- UNICEF. Early Marriage: Child Spouses. UNICEF, 2001.
- UNICEF. The State of the World’s Children 2016: A Fair Change for Every Child. UNICEF, 2016.
- Wodon, Quentin. & Suzanne, Petroni. The Rippling Economic Impacts of Child Marriage. World Bank: Education for Global Development, 2017.