Thursday, March 12, 2009

India: Women & Marriage

From the Times of India:
"Laws banning child marriages were introduced in the country in 1929 but 80 years down the line, the social ill continues to be as grave as ever. Nearly half the women in India are married off before they reach the legal age of 18, a joint Indo-American study announced in the medical journal `Lancet' on Tuesday.

After looking at data of 22,807 women aged 20-24 years, around 44.5% of these women were found to have got married before the age of 18. Child brides were also at greater risk of a fistula -- a tear in the genital tract -- as well as pregnancy complications and death and sickness as a result of childbirth.

India introduced laws against child marriage in 1929 and set the legal age for marriage at 12 years. The legal age for marriage was increased to 18 years in 1978.

Unicef recently said that child marriage was increasing India's maternal and infant deaths. Girls who give birth before the age of 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s. If a mother is under the age of 18, her infant's risk of dying in its first year of life is 60% greater than that of an infant born to a mother older than 19.

"More than 40% of the world's child marriages take place in India. Worldwide, more than 60 million women between 20-24 were married before they were 18. Child brides become mothers much before their bodies are physically mature for pregnancy," Unicef's Karin Hulshof said. She added that child marriage prevented many girls from continuing their education and were also less likely to seek medical attention and immunise their babies. "

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