For families with several children or living in poverty, child marriage becomes a simple solution to help bring some solution to their desperate economic situation. This just means one less mouth to feed and one less person to educate.
Child marriage is defined as a marriage of an individual (girl or boy) before reaching the pronounced eligible age. Children in this age group are immature or not mature enough to enter into the overwhelming idea of marriage. Neither their psyche nor the body is ready to take up the burden of the union of marriage. Most global organizations like UNICEF define a child as an individual who is yet to attain the age of 18 years (as per the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child). Child marriage refers to both formal and informal union of children where they live with their partner as if married.
Child marriage is one of the factors which deprive the child of its right. Evidence shows that early marriage makes girls more vulnerable to violence, abuse and exploitation. For both girls and boys, marriage has a strong physical, intellectual, psychological and emotional impact, cutting off educational opportunities and chances of personal growth. It has been proved that early marriage deprives children of access to education and, therefore, to better opportunities in the future. It also limits the child’s freedom of decision and contributes to the generational cycle of poverty.
Child marriage is often associated with multiple health risks. This is because young brides have limited access to and use of contraception and reproductive health services and information. The majority are exposed to early and frequent sexual relations and repeated pregnancies and childbirth before they are physically mature and psychologically ready. Obstetric fistula is one of the most devastating consequences. Fistula is a devastating condition where an abnormal connection between the rectum and vagina is formed due to prolonged, obstructed labour but doesn’t have access to emergency medical care, such as a C-section. Mothers subjected to obstruction without the necessary medical help labour for days and usually die with their child. Even mothers who make it alive await a life filled with the physical and mental plight and social segregation. One of the terrible effects of fistula, when untreated, is that the woman will uncontrollably leak urine, stool, or sometimes both for the rest of her life.
Domestic violence thrives in an environment where women feel powerless and lack access to vital resources and decision-making powers. Evidence suggests that young brides are more likely to be exposed to violence due to the limited power of negotiations.
It is highly discomfiting and concerning that India has the largest number of child marriages in the world. Over one-third of the global marriages are done in India. It is hard to know the exact number of child marriages as many are unregistered and unofficial. It is estimated that 22% of marriages occur for girls below 18 years, and around 8% occur for boys below 21 years still in Karnataka.
Policies and programs focus strongly on the prevention of child marriage and other violation of child rights. It is also necessary to protect the human rights of girls who are at risk of being married off. It is equally important to protect the rights of girls who have already entered marriage. Targeting the wellbeing of hundreds of such Princesses in its operational area, SEVAK has been implementing the IMAGE K (Initiative for Married Adolescent Girls Empowerment Karnataka project in Belagavi district, targeting 1000+ early married girls. It is a collaborative action supported by TdH Netherlands to protect and promote the rights of young girls who are wives and children at the same time.
The project IMAGE K focuses on their health rights, access to education, nutritional care, sexual and reproductive health rights, and social security by promoting livelihood opportunities and addressing gender-based violence. Empowering girls in their marriage will plant the seed for prevention as well. Married girls, aware of their child rights and their human rights, will become aware of the need for alternative strategies for their daughters.
The outcome of the project:
Various strategies, approaches and activities are planned and implemented to address the issues of Early Married Girls in the operational area of SEVAK. The notable achievements of the project are as follows;
We believe the world is not changed entirely by the actions of a single person. A single person can show the road to reformation, but it is upto the man in the mirror to lend the helping hand. We are proud to be a part of the empowerment of adolescent girls who received little help from their families and their society. Join us and be a part of this important mission that will bring change to this awful practice.
S E V A K stands for Society for Empowerment through Voluntary Action in Karnataka. S E V A K was founded in the year 2009 as a registered society registered under the Karnataka Societies Registration Act, 1960 in Belgaum district, Belgaum.