India leading world's child marriages: UN

Charu Sudan Kasturi

New Delhi, March 8 -- Every second girl in India is married underage, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said on Friday in a fresh assessment of global child marriage patterns that paints a worrying picture of a practice widely banned but still rampant.

India has the largest number of child brides in the world, with 47% girls married under the legal age of 18, the UNFPA said, projecting that 140 mn child marriages may take place between 2011 and 2020, cutting across most developing nations.

On an average, that means 39,000 child marriages every day.

The shocking numbers came on International Women's Day, at a time when India is debating strengthening laws on crimes against women.

One of the proposals under consideration is lowering the age of consent for sex from 18 to 16 years, irrespective of marriage.

"Child marriage is an appalling violation of human rights and robs girls of their education, health and long-term prospects," Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA executive director said.

The UNFPA has also projected that of the 140 mn girls who will be married under 18 by 2020, 50 mn will be under the age of 15.

Niger (75%), Chad (68%), the Central African Republic (68%), Bangladesh (66%), Guinea (63%), Mozambique (56%), Mali (55%), Burkina Faso and South Sudan (52%) and Malawi (50%) are the top 10 nations with highest incidence of child marriages, according to the UNFPA.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.