Model Question and Answers for APSC | In the absence of an enhancement in women’s schooling or skills, a legalistic approach to ending child marriage might become counterproductive. Critically discuss.
In the absence of an enhancement in women’s schooling or skills, a legalistic approach to ending child marriage might become counterproductive. Critically discuss.
Ans: Several empirical studies from South Asia establish a significant association between early marriage and adverse health and educational outcomes of women and their children. Specifically, studies associate early marriage of women with early pregnancy, lower likelihood of accessing antenatal care, higher risks of maternal morbidity and mortality, poor nutritional status of women and poor nutritional and educational outcomes of children.
These studies seem to provide a rather compelling case for increasing the age of marriage of women from 18 to 21 years, as a delayed marriage might offer significant public health dividends.
Structural drivers of child marriage: social norms, poverty, and women’s education.
- Social norms: It is because of social norms in many regions and cultures that parents begin preparations for a girl’s marriage once she has reached menarche.
- Poverty: Equally, a large proportion of child marriages take place primarily because of poverty and the burden of the huge costs of dowry associated with delayed marriages.
- Women’s education, Skills: These factors curtail a girl’s opportunities to continue her And in turn, the lack of educational opportunities plays an important role in facilitating child marriage.
Profiling child marriage: an enhancement in women’s schooling or skills means lower child marriages
- If we look at the data community-wise, 39% of child marriages in India take place among Adivasis and Dalits. The share of advantaged social groups is 17% and the remaining share is of Other Backward Classes.
- In terms of household wealth, 58% of these marriages take place among the poorest wealth groups (bottom 40%), about 40% of them take place among the middle 50% and only 2% of them take place among the top 10% of wealth groups.
- Only 4% of child marriages in India take place among women who have completed more than 12 years of education.
Thus, the data confirm that a significant proportion of child marriages takes place among women with less than 12 years of schooling and households that are socially and economically disadvantaged.
Marriage age and schooling interconnection:
- Expectedly, the average age at marriage increases from 17 years among women who are illiterate and have had up to five years of schooling to 22 years among women who have had more than 12 years of schooling.
- This indicates that an increase in years of schooling goes hand in hand with an increase in age at marriage.
- While an increase in education is most likely to delay marriage, the increase in age at marriage may or may not increase women’s education.
The way forward
- To sum up, the health dividend emanating from women’s increased age at marriage is not imminent. Increasing the age of marriage without a commensurate improvement in women’s education is least likely to yield better health and nutritional outcomes.
- Instead, it might adversely impact the poor and illiterate. The fact that about one-fourth of women (18-29 years) in India have married before 18 years despite the law tells us that legally increasing the age of marriage may not fully prevent child marriages.
- By contrast, much of the benefits can be reaped by ensuring that women complete education at least up to 12 years. The case of Bangladesh shows that improving women’s education and imparting modern skills to them that increase their employability reduces child marriage and improves health and nutrition.
- Also, we need schemes which ease the financial burden of marriage but the eligibility criteria which should essentially link to educational attainment in addition to age demand attention.
- The lessons from Janani Suraksha Yojana and the zeal demonstrated in ending open defecation might provide valid insights here.
Educating women is important for their personal freedom, and social well-being and contributes to human development. A legalistic approach to increasing the age at marriage will produce positive results only if it leads to an improvement in women’s education and skill acquisition for employability.