Marriage under the Legal age in North Eastern Region of India

 

Markynti Swer

Post Doctoral Fellow (UGC), Department of Geography, North Eastern Hill University, Shillong, Meghalaya.

*Corresponding Author Email: mswer2016@gmail.com

 

ABSTRACT:

Marriage is an important institution in society, which reflects the socio cultural practice of community. Marriage under the legal age particularly for girls is prevalence in developing countries. However, there is variation in rates of under age marriage among developing countries and within regions depending on the customs and traditions of the society. This paper highlighting and assessing the persistence of child marriage in Northeast region of India analyzing inter state variation of 2001 and 2011 Census data.

 

KEYWORDS: Marriage, legal age, developing countries, customs and traditions.

 

 


INTRODUCTION:

Child marriage refers to the marrying before the legal age at 18 years for girls and 21 years for boys. The phenomenon of marriage under the legal age is perhaps the most negative consequences for the girls, the boys, their children, family and the society as a whole. The personal development of their physical growth is hampered by their early marriage, this lead to intellectual, psychological and emotional impact. Whatever may be the causes and consequences of early marriage, whether it happen to a girl or a boy, early marriage is violation of Human Right. Article 16 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Right consent ‘free and full’ marriage. However ‘free and full’ marriage does not support when at least one partner is very immature1.

 

It seems that in developed countries marrying under the legal age does not persists as happen in most of the developing countries. In India arrange marriage is practiced and marrying under the legal age is still prevalent particularly amongst those families in rural areas with low income.

 

Traditional norms and values contribute towards the persistence of a child marriage in India. Parents are concerned for the safety of a girl ensuring that a husband protect her, family honour is another factor along with poverty and lack of education of the parents are few examples of marrying under the legal age of a girl. It is to be noted here that a girl child is always considering as a property and a burden for the family since the bride family has to pay dowry in the form of cash or kind towards the bridegroom family. Parents’ marrying their daughters in early stage to a good family is a relief for the family financially (girl child is costly to feed, cloth and educate and they have to leave home for their husband home) and parents establish social ties and improve their social status within their society. The majority of young age lives in rural areas; lives in poverty hence are deprived of education. There is no proper system to prevent girls from marrying under the legal age since the primary source of care and support is her husband. This is the strategic for economic survival.

 

Presently, Indian society is undergoing transformation from traditional to modern and industrial social order, the social structure and integrity of the society, the values, the norms and the existence of under legal age marriage are being uprooted particularly in the urban areas.

 

As the second largest population of the world, India occupies an influential role among countries in developing region. Its population of just 1.2 billion in 2011 continues to grow at about 1.25 percent per annum.

 

Study area and data:

The study area covers the whole of North East, which include seven states namely Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura, Nagaland, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The latitudinal extent and longitudinal extent of the region falls between 27˚ 57’ N and 28˚ 23’ N latitudes and 89˚ 46’E and 97˚ 25’E longitude.

 

The necessary material for study has been collected from secondary sources such as marital status tables from Census report. Besides, data available from NFHS-1, NFHS-II, NFHS-III and NFHS IV (National Family Health Survey) and DLHS (District Level Household and Facility Survey) has been profitably used for macro understanding of the process of marriage under legal age in India and in the Northeast.

 

METHODOLOGY:

The data has been calculated as follows:

i.       Percentage of total married persons (<18 years of age) to the total population under 18 years of age.

ii.      Percentage of total males married persons (<18 years of age) to the total males population under 18 years of age.

iii.    Percentage of total females married persons (<18 years of age) to the total females population under 18 years of age.

 

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION:

Marriage under 18 years of age occur worldwide but are mainly seen in South Asia, Africa and Latin America 2. There are many factors that contribute towards the persistence of a child marriage. A study by UNICEF in six West Africa countries shows that marrying a girl early is their customs and tradition preventing them from out of wedlock pregnancies and arranging her marriage is her father decision.

 

According to UNFPA survey reports in South Asia from 2000 to 2010 the percentage of women between ages 20-24 years who were married by age 18 years was 46 percent. However, within region of South Asia the highest prevalence of child marriage is found in Bangladesh with 66 percent. However, the same report (UNFPA) shows that prevalence of child marriage in India is one of the highest rates in the world. About 47% of the women aged 20-24 were married before 18 years of age in 2006 3.

 

The National Family Health Survey and District Level Household and facility Survey in India reports a declining trends in the prevalence of child marriage but the rate of decline is very slow (from 54.2% in 1992-1993 to 47.4% in 2005-2006) 4.


 

Table 1. India: Percentage of child marriage (<18 years) out of total population of <18 years.

Country

 

Age Group-

Currently Married-2001

Currently Married-2011

<18 years

Overall

Males

Females

Overall

Males

Females

India

Overall

1.51

0.69

2.42

1.62

0.96

2.33

India

Rural

1.66

0.75

2.66

1.61

0.95

2.33

India

Urban

1.05

0.48

1.68

1.63

1.00

2.34

Source: Census of India


 

Analysis in percentage on proportion of child married based on the Census of India 2001 and 2011 data for currently married population less than 18 years of age (out of the total population of persons less than 18 years of age) shows an increasing trend in overall child marriage, females child marriage shows a phenomenal decreasing trend, whereas, males child marriage has shown slight increase over a decade. Unexpectedly, comparing rural and urban areas in child marriage of both sexes, the percentage share in proportion has been showing a declining trend from 2.66 percent in 2001 to 2.33 percent in 2011 for girls’ child marriage in rural areas. This is not the same for girls’ child marriage in urban areas as there has been an increasing trend in a decade from 1.68 percent to 2.34 percent in 2011 (table 1.).

 

Within the country child marriage persist and reflects the dominance of patriarchal norms and patriarchal power

 

structure surrounding marriage that have led to women subordination and dependence on man in society 5. In rural areas, girls are particularly vulnerable to child marriage 6.

 

However, data analysis of 2001 and 2011 in the country shows slight variation in percentage of child marriage between rural and urban though there has been an increase in child marriage from over 0.39 to 1.61 percent in rural areas and 0.25 to 1.63 percent in urban areas. Data assessment on child marriage within the country has been always a problematic issue since many are unregistered and are not counted as part of any system.

 

India is vast and diverse country with strong cultural practices and beliefs, within those diversity child marriages pattern and proportion varies across economic class, caste, religion, education and geographical location. However, child marriage that prevails in the main land particularly with the child girls has been always an arrange marriage by the parents. This situation of arranged marriage or ‘force marriage’, which is often against the wish of a girl does not persist in tribal region of North East of India. Moreover, the tribal segment of the population is far more concentrated in the hilly and forested areas. The Brahmaputra valley supports the lowest concentration of the tribal population and act as the transition between high concentration area lying on the North and South.

 

Tribes of North East region of India are the people with special attachments to land, kinship ties, a unique culture, certain religious beliefs, particular activities or material possessions that differentiated and separated them from the mainstream. The tribes are in subordinate roles for they had less political power and less access to resources, technology and other forms of power 7.

 

Irrespective of the absence of ‘force marriage’ or ‘arrange marriage’, in North East India the proportion of child marriage is prevalence and is little higher than the national average. It is evident from table 2 that the overall average proportion of the child marriage in 2001 is higher in Assam with 1.03 percent and Tripura 1.4 percent. Mizoram has the lowest proportion of child marriage. After a decade that is by 2011 data shows a slight increase in overall average percentage in Assam, but a phenomenal increase in Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Manipur. Incidence of child marriage is significantly higher among females as compare to the counterpart for both 2001 and 2011, though both sexes are showing an increasing rate of child marriage.


Table 2. North East India: Percentage of overall child marriage (<18 years) out of total population of <18 years.

States

 

Currently Married-2001 (Overall)

Currently Married-2011 (Overall)

Age Group

Overall

Males

Females

Overall

Males

Females

Assam

<18 years

1.03

0.31

1.79

1.34

0.63

2.09

Arunachal

<18 years

0.9

0.37

1.46

1.44

0.82

2.07

Meghalaya

<18 years

0.92

0.33

1.52

1.28

0.57

2

Mizoram

<18 years

0.52

0.2

0.85

0.87

0.78

1.33

Nagaland

<18 years

0.91

0.4

1.46

1.02

0.49

1.58

Manipur

<18 years

0.75

0.31

1.19

1.13

0.64

1.65

Tripura

<18 years

1.04

0.32

1.8

1.57

0.68

2.51

Source: Census of India*

 


Child marriage in India occurs more frequently among girls who are the least educated, poorest and living in rural areas. Reports by NFHS and DLHS reveals that 52.5% of currently married women in age group 20-24 years in rural areas and 28.2% in urban areas got married before 18 years of age in 1992-93. However by 2007-2008 about 48% in urban areas and 29% in rural areas of currently married women in age group 20-24 years got married before age 18. Although the gap between urban and rural areas has almost halved from 30.2 percentage points in 1992-1993 to 18.6 percentage points in 2007-2008, currently married women in rural areas are twice more likely to be child brides than their urban counterparts 8.

 

Large part of population of North East region of India live in rural areas with less access to educational facilities and health care. A report by the UNICEF reveals that poverty and a lack of access to quality education are major causes of child marriage in Assam and most of especially among the Adivais, Bodo, and Santhals but child marriage is a prescribed religious practice among some of the Muslim population in Dhubri and Nagaon as it is common for a girl to marry at the age of 14 or 15 years 9.

 

A report by the DLHS-3 reveals that in Dibrugarh district teenage pregnancy is extremely high about 8.6 percent– much higher than the state average of 5.2 percent. Prevalence of anemia disease and low access to safe delivery services has become a serious issue with the teen-age pregnancy in the district 10.

 

A report by the team Human Right Law Network reveals that in Assam child marriage is an accepted practice in the tea gardens within the marginalized groups of Adivasis and it is grossly under reported 11.

 


 

Table 3. North East India: Percentage of child marriage (<18 years) out of total population of <18 years. (Rural)

 

 States

 

Currently Married-2001 (Rural)

Currently Married-2011 (Rural)

Age Group

Overall

Males

Females

Overall

Males

Females

Assam

<18 years

1.01

0.29

1.77

1.33

0.62

2.08

Arunachal

<18 years

0.85

0.36

1.37

1.33

0.76

1.92

Meghalaya

<18 years

0.9

0.32

1.5

1.31

0.57

2.06

Mizoram

<18 years

0.5

0.18

0.84

0.89

0.47

1.38

Nagaland

<18 years

0.85

0.39

1.34

0.98

0.47

1.53

Manipur

<18 years

0.75

0.31

1.2

1.09

0.6

1.6

Tripura

<18 years

1.01

0.3

1.75

1.57

0.69

2.48

Source: Census of India*

 

 

Table 4. North East India: Percentage of child marriage (<18 years) out of total population of <18 years. (Urban)

 

 

Currently Married-2001 (Urban)

Currently Married-2011 (Urban)

 

Age Group

Overall

Males

Females

Overall

Males

Females

Assam

<18 years

1.16

0.42

1.94

1.42

0.71

2.18

Arunachal

<18 years

1.11

0.42

1.83

1.83

1.05

2.61

Meghalaya

<18 years

1

0.38

1.61

1.14

0.56

1.72

Mizoram

<18 years

0.55

0.22

0.87

0.85

0.41

1.29

Nagaland

<18 years

1.21

0.45

2.03

1.12

0.55

1.71

Manipur

<18 years

0.74

0.31

1.18

1.25

0.73

1.79

Tripura

<18 years

1.26

0.43

2.11

1.61

0.64

2.62

Source: Census of India*

 


Census data on child marriage in almost all states of the region has been showing an increase over years for both sexes in rural and urban areas. Table 3 and 4 surprisingly reveals a slightly higher percentage of child marriage in all states of Northeast in urban areas rather than rural areas except in Mizoram and Tripura over years.

As evident from figure 1, there has been a declining trend on an overall average of child marriage in the region, the standard deviation shows a little higher in 2011 as compare to 2001 whereas coefficient of variation has been showing a little higher in 2001.


 

 

Fig 1. North East India-Marriage under legal age (<18 years) Overall

Source: Census of India*

 


The proportion of females child marriage has been slightly higher on an average in both years, with standard deviation as well as coefficient of variation which is equivalently high.


 

 

Fig 2. North East India-Marriage under legal age (<18 years) (Males,Females)

Source: Census of India*

 


There is slight variation in the proportion of child marriage belonging to rural and urban component of the population with urban areas invariably supporting more child marriage in their population compared to the rural population (Fig. 3). There is less inter state variation as far as rural population is concerned as evident from generally lower standard deviation and co-efficient of variation.


 

 

Fig 3. North East India-Marriage under legal age (<18 years) (Rural,Urban)

Source: Census of India*

 


CONCLUSION:

Significantly data on child marriage in India and North East region of India reveals an increasing trend on an average; data on females’ child marriage has been always higher than the counterpart. However, the urban areas, which are more, advanced in terms of accessibility in educational facilities as well as health care or health awareness has been showing a little higher in child marriage unexpectedly. This situation unknown for the reasons needs to be taken up for further detail study by researchers.

 

REFERENCES:

1.       Registrar General and Census Commission of India, 2001 and 2011.Socio economic tables-Marital status.

2.       UNICEF Inocenti Research centre, Florence-Italy, 2001. Early marriage: Child spouse. ISSN: 1020-3528.

3.       M. Nour Nawal, 2009. Child marriages: A silent health and human right Review in Obsterics and Gynecology Vol. 2 No.1.

4.       UNFPA, 2012. Child Marriage Profile of India. Retrieved from www.khubmarriage18.org on 25th June 2016

5.       UNICEF, 2012. Child marriage in India: An analysis of available data. Retrieved from http://www.unicef.in/documents/childmarriage.pdf on 16th June 2016.

6.       UNICEF, 2009, Early Marriage in South Asia: A Discussion Paper. Rep. UNICEF ROSA.

7.       UNICEF, 2011. Global data bases (DHS, MICS and other national surveys), 2000-2010.

8.       Sharma L. 2009. Dynamics of Indigenous People in India. International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), p1-6

9.       UNICEF, Incidence of child marriage in India. An Analysis of available data (2012).

10.     UNICEF, 2015. Desk Review of Child Marriage. Retrieved from http://www.khubmarriage18.org on 11th June 2016

11.     Assam, Dibrugarh District Fact Sheet, DLHS-3 (2007-2008) Government of Assam.

12.     UNICEF, 2011. Desk Review of Child Marriage; Retrieved from http://www.khubmarriage18.org on 13th June 2016.

 

 

 

Received on 26.04.2018        Modified on 10.05.2018

Accepted on 18.07.2018      ©A&V Publications All right reserved

Res.  J. Humanities and Social Sciences. 2018; 9(3): 588-592.

DOI: 10.5958/2321-5828.2018.00099.2